Guardiola and Messi respect Czechs
Barcelona is counting on Lionel Messi to maintain his excellent scoring form when it hosts Czech champion Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Messi's pair of goals in a 3-0 victory over Racing Santander on Saturday took the Argentina striker's season tally to 16 from 12 games and kept the Spanish champions top of the league.
The defending European champions face the first of back-to-back games against Plzen starting at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona and AC Milan share four points in Group H, with the Italian champions beginning a double-header against Belarusian side BATE Borisov, which has one point along with Plzen.
Messi said on Tuesday that while Plzen was largely unknown, Barcelona would treat the game like any other, knowing that it could practically wrap up its qualification for the next round with six more points.
''We know that no team in the Champions League is easy, no matter where they come from,'' Messi said. ''We will go out to play as we always do, with respect for our rival and trying to play our best game by dominating the possession of the ball.''
Messi's impressive scoring run has taken him to second on the club's all-time scoring list with 196 goals but masks its bad luck with injury problems.
Andres Iniesta returned Saturday against Santander with Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez injured and defender Gerard Pique missing again after injuring his leg for the second time this season.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said that his job boiled down to knowing how to get the most out of his stars like Messi.
''I always say that the great players need to touch the ball as much as possible,'' Guardiola said. ''And I try to put (Messi) in situations where the gets the ball and can play his best.''
While Barcelona has defeated European powerhouses like Manchester United and Real Madrid en route to winning the tournament twice in the last three seasons, Guardiola emphasized the difficulties his side has had against lesser opponents.
''Each year it happens, Basel, Rubin Kazan, Copenhagen ... the little teams have always caused us more problems than the big ones,'' Guardiola said, adding that his team could ill afford another slip at home after drawing with Milan in the first game.
Plzen faces a Barcelona squad that has outscored Spanish league opponents 21-0 at Camp Nou stadium this season and has dominated its adversaries 14-0 in its last four matches, overall. It is currently on an 11-game home unbeaten run in Europe.
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba's team is coming off a 2-0 loss to Milan and a 1-1 draw in domestic league action, and he has no illusions about the difficult task ahead.
''I respect Barcelona and I hope that the goals are kept to a minimum. A team that had reached this round does not expect to concede a lot of goals,'' said Vrba. ''Our dream is to win, but we are facing the best team in the world. If we manage to beat Barcelona, they'll build a statue to us in Plzen.''