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Apr 23, 2012

Pep hits back at critics

Pep Guardiola has hit back at the critics of his Barcelona side ahead of a potentially season-defining Champions League semi-final second leg with Chelsea.

• Di Matteo to delay Drogba decision
• Pique: No rift with Pep
• Xavi: Fans will inspire us
• Blog: Why Barca will beat Blues

Barcelona look certain to lose their La Liga crown to Real Madrid after suffering a 2-1 defeat in Saturday's El Clasico meeting at the Camp Nou, and they must overturn a 1-0 deficit against the Blues if they are to return to the Champions League final.

Guardiola has been criticised for his selection and tactics but, in a tense press conference, he launched into a long rant after a Spanish journalist probed him on his decision to field Cristian Tello against Madrid.

"The press should attack me or the older players," Guardiola said. "He played a f****** good game. I mean most of the dangerous chances were created by him."

He was curt in some answers and rambling in others during a lengthy press conference, which he brought to an abrupt end by walking out.

Guardiola, though, earlier insisted he was not feeling the pressure due to the trust he had in his players to perform.

"I don't know if this is the most important moment of my career as a coach, but I have always faced these challenges with a lot of optimism as I believe in my players and team," he said. "Whenever you have a defeat, the day after the match you feel a little low but afterwards you get faith in the facts and I am optimistic because I know them well and that we will work hard.

"We try to cover everything that is important so we just try and do that. We will analyse the challenge and I think we have had other challenges over the years.

"I cannot really tell you if this is the most important challenge of my life."

Barcelona's chances have been boosted by the news Lionel Messi will be fit for the match. He had missed training on Sunday but returned on Monday in an open media session at the Camp Nou.

"Well, Leo had a gastric issue," Guardiola said. "The doctor saw him and he called us before the training session. He didn't go to it as he didn't feel well but now he is okay."

Gerard Pique could return to the side on Tuesday, and Guardiola denied that he had a poor relationship with the player.

"There is no problem at all. He has had an injury for a long time. I have many players and can choose Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol, who are a good combination in central defence.

"We wanted to have the right players to face Benzema, Ronaldo, Di Maria, and that is why I decided to play with the players I have chosen so far.

"I do appreciate Gerard because of his approach to life. Some players have only football. Pique has football and a bunch of other things. I'm not the one to change him - I like him this way.

"The rest is just my decision, the fact he plays or not."

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