Madrid: Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola used his pre-game press conference to deny rumours of a rift between strikers David Villa and Lionel Messi.
The Valencia-based paper "Superdeporte" published this week that the pair had a very poor relationship, a story that is given some credence by the fact that Villa joined Barcelona from Valencia a year and a half ago and still has plenty of contacts in the city.
Guardiola, however, dismissed the story. "It is impossible to be an enemy of David, he is too nice a person. He is generous both in the way he plays football and also in his personal life. It is impossible not to get on well with him," said Guardiola, who also had to answer accusations from former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich that he was "scared" of Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
"I have nothing to say about that, it is personal. All I have to say is thanks for the work he did in the season that he was with us. We ended with 99 points and he showed his qualities and helped us reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, or maybe we helped him get to the semi finals..." was all Guardiola would say on the subject.
Guardiola also spoke of his great admiration for Marcelo Bielsa, who coaches Barcelona's rivals, Athletic Club Bilbao, who Barca will play in Bilbao on Sunday night.
"I am looking forward to shaking his hand and seeing him again," he said, admitting that his side would face a tough contest.
"They are a team that don't let you breathe, they are aggressive in a sporting way and they press you a long way up the pitch. We know we will have to play very well to beat them and they will attack us from the first minute to the last. We will have to be faster with the ball than ever and the only way to win is to be even braver than them," he said.
Finally Guardiola confirmed that young winger Issac Cuenca will be staying with the first team squad for the foreseeable future.