x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Pep Guardiola shifts Barcelona focus to Japan for Club World Cup

After the thrilling win over Real Madrid Barca flew to Japan for the Club World Cup and will face Qatar's Al Sadd on Thursday.

Barcelona's coach Pep Guardiola, fourth left, speaks to his players during a practice session for their upcoming Club World Cup football match against Qatar's Al Sadd in Yokohama.
Barcelona's coach Pep Guardiola, fourth left, speaks to his players during a practice session for their upcoming Club World Cup football match against Qatar's Al Sadd in Yokohama.

The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, resisted the temptation to bask in Saturday's electrifying 3-1 'Clasico' victory over Real Madrid after arriving in Japan for the Club World Cup.

Guardiola is trying to get his players to relax ahead of their Club World Cup semifinal, combatting impressions that complacency is the only impediment to the Spanish giant claiming another trophy.

Barcelona trained in Japan today in preparation for Thursday's clash with the Qatari club Al Sadd.

Guardiola admitted he knew little of Asian champions Al Sadd, who could opt for damage limitation when they face the Spanish title holders in Thursday's semi-final in Yokohama. "We haven't analysed our opponents yet," said Guardiola, once a player for Al Sadd's Qatari rivals Al Ahli from 2003-05.

The European kings overcame Real at the Bernabeu at the weekend to leapfrog their bitter rivals at the top of La Liga, albeit having played a game more.

"Real Madrid were the team of the 20th century and it is true we have enjoyed some success over them recently," Guardiola told a packed news conference on Monday.

"But there's hardly any difference between the two teams. Real Madrid are a great team, we know that," he added after his eighth win in 12 'Clasicos' since taking over in 2008.

"We have just have to get the players ready for this tournament now. We are here to win the Club World Cup. I want the players to relax and get over their fatigue properly." Barca arrived in Japan late on Sunday having jetted out of Spain immediately after their clash with Real.

"We will do a little sightseeing in Tokyo, have some traditional Japanese food in the city to adjust from the tough trip and be ready to do the job," said Guardiola. "Lionel [Messi] and everyone are fit but we will look at team selection after studying our opponents and after looking at the players in training."

After the sightseeing tour, there will be a training session where they will interact with children from the areas affected by the devastating March 11 tsunami and earthquake.

"Every time we come over to Japan, we receive a warm welcome," Guardiola stated. "We want to interact with the Japanese people and show our power on the pitch."

Barcelona is returning to the tournament two years after claiming the title in Abu Dhabi, with Lionel Messi scoring the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Argentina's Estudiantes.

European champion Barcelona and South American champion Santos of Brazil are the seeded teams and don't enter the tournament until the semifinal stage begins.

Santos will play J.League champion Kashiwa Reysol, who beat CONCACAF champion Monterrey of Mexico in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Asian champions Al Sadd progressed to the final four with a 2-1 win over African champions Esperance of Tunisia.

Al Sadd will be rank outsiders against Barcelona despite strong spending to strengthen the squad in recent times, adding former Lille, Lyon and Galatasaray forward Kader Keita, former Marseille striker Mamadou Niang and Brazilian striker Leandro, who is familiar with Japanese conditions after several years in the J-League.

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol made it clear that he and his teammates know it will be a challenge for them to emerge triumphant in this event.

"We are very confident after the win over Real Madrid and we are very highly motivated," Puyol said. "But it will not be easy to win in this tournament. It is always tough."

Puyol reflected on Saturday's victory over Real Madrid, which ended the nine-time European champions' 15-match winning streak in all competitions, while also looking ahead to his side's next task.

"The match on Saturday was a very good one. We were able to display our football," he said. "To win the title here is extra important to us.

We had to win the Champions League first to get here."