Pep: Don't expect a 16-team La Liga

BY foxsports • November 8, 2011

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola doesn't expect to see the Spanish league reduced from 20 to 16 teams, despite the wishes of his club president Sandro Rosell.

On Monday, Rosell said he wanted to drop four clubs from the first division since a smaller league would be more competitive.

''It isn't a bad idea to reduce the number of teams in the league, but all the top leagues have 20 teams,'' Guardiola said on Tuesday. ''When I was a player we also talked about that. (But) I don't think the league will ever be reduced to 16 teams. There are many cities that deserve to be in the first division.''

Barcelona and Madrid have won every league title since Valencia's 2004 triumph, with their budgets and television rights deals dwarfing the rest.

Barcelona looks to extend its unbeaten start to 19 games on Wednesday in a Copa del Rey first-leg match at third-division Hospitalet, where the Spanish champions will play on an artificial surface.

''That won't be an excuse,'' Guardiola said of the change of playing surfaces, three days after Lionel Messi's stoppage-time equalizer in a memorable 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao, a match played in steady rain on a soaked field.

While Guardiola has most of his regulars available, he is likely to use mostly youth team players for the match, which was brought forward since the European champions will be away playing at the Club World Cup in Japan in December.

Argentina internationals Messi and Javier Mascherano, Brazil fullbacks Daniel Alves and Adriano and Chile forward Alexis Sanchez are away on international duty, as are Spain Under-21s Thiago Alcantara and Isaac Cuenca.

Spain players Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, David Villa and Andres Iniesta are all available, although Guardiola said Villa has a leg problem.

''They don't care if we play a big club or a small one,'' Guardiola said. ''Tomorrow Barca will play, will look to score, will defend well.''

Guardiola criticized the domestic cup format of return-leg games.

''With one game there would be more surprises,'' Guardiola said. ''One game away, you have a bad day and you're out.''

The return leg will be played at the Camp Nou on Dec. 21. The remaining 15 matches will be played in December.


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