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Guardiola starts with Sporting challenge

A European champion with FC Barcelona as a player, Josep Guardiola begins his pursuit of the same prize as coach of the Blaugrana when they welcome Group C rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal to the Camp Nou on Matchday 1.

Josep Guardiola is hoping to make an impression as a coach
Josep Guardiola is hoping to make an impression as a coach ©Getty Images

A European champion with FC Barcelona as a player, Josep Guardiola begins his pursuit of the same prize as coach of the Blaugrana when they welcome Group C rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal to Catalonia on Matchday 1.

• Only five men have won the European Champion Clubs' Cup as both player and coach and it might hearten Guardiola that two of them – Johan Cruyff and Frank Rijkaard – achieved the second part of that feat with Barcelona.

• Guardiola, who replaced Rijkaard at the Barcelona helm during the close season, had first-hand experience of Cruyff's success as a member of the side that won Barcelona's first European Cup with a 1-0 victory against UC Sampdoria in 1992.

• His goal will be to take Barcelona further than they managed last term when they fell at the final hurdle on the road to Moscow, following a 1-0 aggregate defeat by Manchester United FC in the semi-finals.

• Barcelona's 1-0 loss at Old Trafford in the semi-final second leg was the only reverse they suffered in 12 European outings last term. After topping their section in the group stage with four wins and two draws, they recorded home-and-away victories against both Celtic FC (3-2, 1-0) and FC Schalke 04 (1-0, 1-0).

• For Sporting, meanwhile, this is their third successive season in the UEFA Champions League group stage – and fifth overall – but they are still waiting to secure a place in the knockout rounds.

• Sporting exited last season's competition before Christmas after finishing third in their section, behind Manchester United FC and AS Roma. Their record was W2 D1 L3.

• Curiously, defender Abel's strike in Sporting's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United was the only goal conceded by the eventual champions at Old Trafford in last term's campaign.

• Paulo Bento's team moved into the UEFA Cup where they overcame FC Basel 1893 5-0 on aggregate and beat Bolton Wanderers FC 2-1 overall, before going down 2-0 to Rangers FC over two legs in the quarter-finals.

• While Sporting progressed automatically to the group stage as runners-up in the 2007/08 Portuguese Liga, Barcelona had to negotiate a third qualifying round tie against Wisła Kraków after finishing third in Spain.

• Guardiola's men overcame the Polish champions 4-1 on aggregate. They recorded a 4-0 first-leg victory through goals from Samuel Eto'o, who struck twice, Xavi Hernández and Thierry Henry, before losing the return 1-0 to a Cléber effort.

• Xavi Hernández was the only ever-present for Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League last season. He was one of three Barcelona players in the victorious Spain side at UEFA EURO 2008™ – along with Carles Puyol and Andrés Iniesta – and all three featured in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

• Barcelona's Lionel Messi finished as the joint second-highest scorer in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League with six goals. He picked up a gold medal last month as part of Argentina's winning team at the Beijing Olympic Games.

• Barcelona beat Sporting on away goals in the club's sole previous meeting, a UEFA Cup second round tie in 1986/87.

• Julio Alberto's 72nd-minute strike gave the Azulgrana a 1-0 first-leg victory but they had to fight back in the return after Manuel Negrete (41) and Raphael Meade (61) struck for Sporting. Fortunately for Barcelona, Roberto Fernández's 83rd-minute goal levelled the aggregate score and the visitors progressed.

• Barcelona lost their first ever home meeting with Portuguese opposition in the 1972/73 UEFA Cup first round but have won their nine subsequent Camp Nou contests against visitors from Portugal, including a 2-0 success against SL Benfica in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

• Sporting have never won away to Spanish opponents, having recorded two draws and five defeats in seven previous cross-border excursions. The most recent brought a 4-0 reverse at Real Madrid CF in the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League first group stage.

• Sporting's Brazilian midfielder Fábio Rochemback – who rejoined the club from Middlesbrough FC in May – spent the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons with Barcelona, making 45 league appearances, before embarking on his first, two-year spell at the Estádio José Alvalade.

• Guardiola made 56 European Cup appearances as a player for Barcelona and also won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with the club in 1996/97. He faced another Portuguese side, FC Porto, three times in the UEFA Champions League as a player – and finished on the winning side on each occasion, including the 1993/94 semi-final.

• The other Group C fixtures pits FC Basel 1893 against FC Shakhtar Donetsk.