ABU DHABI // Carles Puyol, the Barcelona captain, has given opponents Atlante a glimmer of hope by acknowledging that the European Champions, who get their Club World Cup campaign under way tomorrow night, can be beaten despite having won every competition they have played in this season. The Catalans are two victories away from an unprecedented sixth trophy in 12 months, but face a semi-final showdown with Concacaf Champions League winners Atlante - a side high on confidence after thrashing Auckland City 3-0 on Saturday.
They also look likely to be without their influential forward Lionel Messi, who was unable to train with his teammate yesterday due to an ankle injury. "He's fed up, but keen to recover and see if he can make it to the match," said Puyol, whose side would face the winner of tonight's game between Estudiantes and Pohang Steelers if they reach the final. And Puyol said there is no complacency in the Barcelona camp.
"We are always the favourites, but we go into every game knowing that we can be beaten," he said. "We respect all the teams in the competition and know we have to be alert against every team we play. Any team can beat us so we have to make sure we do our talking on the pitch and work for each other." The team ethic instilled by their coach Pep Guardiola since taking the reins last summer has led to their handsome haul of winners' medals this year.
Puyol, 31, revealed there is, unsurprisingly, a general confidence in the team's capabilities. "We are expected to leave as winners, but in order to do that the whole team must work together, like we have all year," he said. "If we do that, and only if we do that, can we do what is expected of us - win the two games." email@example.com