Champions League: Pep Guardiola Is Right That Barcelona Are Underdogs

Andrew JordanSenior Writer IApril 27, 2011

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 02: Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola signals to his team during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on May 2, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Following the end of their Champions League quarterfinal victories, Real Madrid and Barcelona were poised to give Spain a stretch of football that would have never been experienced in Spanish history.

Over an 18 day stretch from April 16th to May 3rd, the two Spanish giants would face each other in El Clasico four separate times in three different competitions (La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League).

Today, two of these four matches have been completed, with both sides clawing to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in La Liga on April 16th while Real Madrid won their first Copa del Rey in 18 years on April 20th off an extra time header from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Going into tonight's first leg of the Champions League semifinal, there are lots of people who think that Real Madrid can reach their first Champions League final since 2002.

And on that bandwagon of people that think Real are the favorites in this matchup is an unlikely person: Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.

In an interview with Madrid-friendly sports daily paper Marca, Mourinho stated, "We [Barcelona] accept that Madrid are in the role of favourites in the Champions League. I understand that is so, because they won the Copa and they are [playing] well." 

Considering Real's recent run of success and the fact that Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain have both returned from injury and looked great in Real's 6-3 thumping of Valencia over the weekend, one can certainly see that Real Madrid are currently playing their best football under Jose Mourinho.

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano has also started to praise Mourinho and Real Madrid. Just four days before the Copa del Rey final, Di Stefano called Real Madrid "a side with no personality" and a "mouse" compared with Barcelona's "lion" in a Marca column.

Now, Di Stefano is praising Mourinho, telling Marca after winning the Copa del Rey: "It was the result of the work headed up by Mourinho since he arrived. I hope he stays for many more years."

Of course, it was Mourinho, the man that was able to beat Guardiola last season in the Champions League semifinal with Inter Milan who is in position to once again beat the club that he once worked for as an assistant coach just over ten years ago.

Mourinho was also considered to be the best manager in the world last year at this time by none other than his opponent Guardiola.

Now that the Champions League semifinal will soon start, Barcelona will now find themselves in a match that one could argue is just as big as the Champions League final.

Inside of the Bernebeu tonight, Barcelona will return to the site of their recent 1-1 draw and will be in a match that will the biggest to hit the legendary stadium in years.

Even with some of the best players in the world, Barcelona will be extremely fortunate to pull out a victory against los blancos in this match.

Considering how things have played out since Barcelona's 5-0 mauling of Real Madrid at the Camp Nou at the end of November, it is crazy to think that this Barcelona side (which has been considered to be one of the greatest footballing sides to ever be assembled) could find themselves without a chance to even reach the Champions League final.

But due to recent events and the fact that Real Madrid are also a great side, Barcelona might not be able to achieve the lofty expectations that have been set out for the Catalan side this season.

As long as Jose Mourinho is managing against them, Barcelona can never truly consider themselves to be the greatest football club in the world going into a matchup against the "special one."

Instead, they can be considered to be the best whenever they beat Mourinho, but they will once again have a massive fight on their hands in this El Clasico Champions League semifinal.