Puyol: Barca eyeing treble
Carles Puyol says he sees Wednesday evening's Champions League last-16 first leg against AC Milan at the San Siro as an important step along the way to a potential treble for Barcelona this season.
Barca won the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge of the club [2008-09], and the Catalan club are well placed to repeat the feat under rookie boss Tito Vilanova this term, with a 12-point lead in the league, and a serious chance in both the Copa and in Europe.
Speaking to reporters in Milan on Tuesday evening, the Catalan club's captain said it would not be easy to repeat their past achievement, but that was the aim for the season.
"We will fight for the treble," Puyol said. "It will be difficult but we are going to go game by game. At the end of the season we will see what we have been able to win."
Barca also face domestic rivals Madrid in their Copa semi-final second leg and a La Liga Clasico in the coming weeks. Puyol said he always looked forward to this time of the season, when all the games counted for something important.
"We are coming into the game at a good moment, very motivated," he said. "These are ten decisive days, but we are used to reaching this part of the year when all the games are like finals. These are the games you want to win."
Barca saw off Milan 3-1 on aggregate in last season's quarter-finals of the competition, and the eleven months since have seen a number of senior players including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta all move on.
However this year's more youthful Rossoneri side - with the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Bojan Krkic up front - would pose Barca different problems, Puyol said.
"It will be a difficult game against Milan," Puyol said. "Their danger is clear. They have very good players. They are younger and with less experience than last year, but maybe that makes them more dangerous, more motivated."
Barca's players did not share a feeling around Catalonia that Barca - unbeaten in seven competitive games against Milan dating back to October 2004 - would have little trouble progressing from the tie, Puyol said.
"That is dangerous because we are facing a very good team," he said. "Inside the dressing-room we know that this is a very difficult tie. If we do not do our jobs well, things will not go well for us."
Puyol said that La Masia graduate Bojan, who scored 26 goals in 104 La Liga appearances before leaving Barcelona for Roma in 2011 and could return to the Camp Nou next summer, would need watching if he played.
"He is a great player, he will be dangerous," he said. "I get on well with him and wish him all the best. When he gets a chance to play he does well."
The blaugrana centre-half, 34, admitted that at one point in his career he had considered joining Milan as a player, but at this stage the possibility had passed.
"My second team is Milan," Puyol said. "I always want them to win, except when they play against us. I have never hidden that I would have liked to play here, but now I am getting old. I know for sure I will retire at Barca. But I will always be a Milan fan."