FC Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola has urged his players to grasp "the chance to become the best team in the world" as the European champions begin their FIFA Club World Cup challenge in Japan this week.
Following last weekend's 3-1 Liga triumph at Real Madrid CF, the Azulgrana go into Thursday's semi-final against AFC Champions League winners al-Sadd Sports Club in Yokohama brimming with confidence and eager to lift the silverware they last collected in 2009 – when claiming an unprecedented six trophies in a calendar year.
"I told my players not to miss the chance to win this tournament as the opportunity doesn't come around very often," said Guardiola. "
We are playing for the chance to become the best side in the world but we won't be recognised as such until we win the cup. We have a responsibility to show our best here."
Despite having experienced just one defeat in 26 competitive matches this term, Guardiola said Barcelona will have to be wary against Qatar's al-Sadd – a team the 40-year-old believes are capable of "causing us many surprises". Captain Carles Puyol concurred, explaining: "If al-Sadd have reached the last four it's because they are a good team. We have come here full of hope and expectation but we know the opposition will make things very difficult for us."
The Spanish title holders and new Liga leaders qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup thanks to their UEFA Champions League final victory over Manchester United FC at Wembley in May and should they advance to Sunday's showpiece in Yokohama, they will have the opportunity to clinch the 13th trophy of Guardiola's reign. "
People can say you play good football but you go down in history because of the titles you've won," said Barça defender Gerard Piqué.
"We're not used to the time difference or enduring such a long trip to Japan, and we don't know too much about the teams appearing here, but we are doing things well and training more and more as the semi-final approaches," he continued. "[After Saturday's win at Madrid] we are on the right track and we realise can't pass up opportunities like these."
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