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Apr 23, 2013

Guardiola will support Barca, Xavi says

Xavi Hernandez claims Pep Guardiola will be supporting former team Barcelona against his future side Bayern Munich when the two clash in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena.

• Heynckes rejects Pep talk claims
• Tomas: Time to shine
• Schaaf: Epic

Guardiola, who is currently on a year's sabbatical, spent four trophy-laden seasons as Barca boss but in January agreed to take charge at Bayern next season.

Xavi told reporters at Monday evening's official UEFA press conference that, as an ex-Blaugrana midfielder and manager, Guardiola could only support one side.

"He will enjoy the tie," Xavi said. "As the cule he is, he will be wanting Barcelona to win, I imagine, even though he has a future at Bayern. As a big football fan, he will enjoy a semi-final like this a lot."

Barcelona's prospects of success could be defined by the fitness of Lionel Messi, with the Argentine expected to recover from a thigh injury in time to start his first game since April 2 against the in-form German champions.

Messi was really looking forward to his return and would have no problems getting straight into the rhythm of the game, Xavi said.

"For us to be able to count on the best player in the world is fundamental," he said. "He makes the difference in any game he plays. He has huge motivation to play after ten or 15 days out. I am sure we will see his best version - these games motivate you a lot and he will show how great he is."

Barca needed a half-fit Messi to come off the bench during their quarter-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain and conjure the goal needed to send them though on away goals.

Tito Vilanova's side have also disappointed at other points in the competition, including the 2-0 loss at AC Milan in their last-16 first leg and their game at Celtic in the group stage. Bayern, though, have been rolling over most opposition, including a 4-0 aggregate victory over Serie A champions Juventus in the quarter-finals.

Xavi accepted that his side had not been as impressive as Bayern to date but, given Barca's pedigree in this competition in recent seasons, their semi-final was evenly balanced.

"We are not going there as victims," he said. "I believe the tie is at 50/50. Bayern are a great team, in a spectacular moment of form. They have reached this point more comfortably than we have. But Barcelona is Barcelona: we have spent years imposing our hierarchy in Europe. We will try to be protagonists in the game. We have been to six semi-finals in a row, and this is where we want to be."

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