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Apr 13, 2011

Pep relishing prospect of Real series

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola says he cannot wait to test his side's credentials against arch-rivals Real Madrid, after guiding the Catalans into the Champions League semi-finals for the fourth successive season.

• Guardiola hails players

Guardiola's Barca beat Shakhtar Donetsk 6-1 on aggregate to progress to the last four on Tuesday and a mouthwatering semi-final clash with Real almost certainly awaits - barring a miraculous second-leg diplsay by Tottenham on Wednesday.

Should Real, as expected, advance at Spurs' expense, then Jose Mourinho will pit his wits against Guardiola four times in the space of 17 days, staring with this weekend's La Liga Clasico at the Bernabeu.

That clash is followed by the Copa del Rey final at the Mestalla next Wednesday before the two Champions League semi-finals, with the second leg on May 3.

"[It's] the chance to compete with the most powerful team," Guardiola said on Barcelona's official website. "No matter how many times we play them, they are still the most powerful team in every sense - the strongest, the ones in the best form, the ones with an unstoppable squad.

"We shall accept the challenge and go for it. It doesn't matter what condition we are in. What matters is mentality and desire. This is a gift that any sports person would be delighted to accept. In this situation, all we can do is thank the players, and treat what's happening as a gift.''

Asked how his players would deal with the pressure, he replied: "In a very relaxed way, trying to do their job in the best possible way. We can't do any better than that. Now we have to compete with a very strong opponent.

"The inner peace that comes from knowing that we have taken this club so far in all three competitions is indescribable. Now we just have to enjoy it. It is a pleasure to be able to enjoy this opportunity.''

Guardiola dedicated Tuesday's triumph to striker Bojan Krkic, who looks set to miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury during Saturday's 3-1 home win over Almeria.

"I want to dedicate this win to Bojan,'' the Barca coach said. "I hope it gives him the strength to recover as quickly as possible.''

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