Guardiola raises eyebrows with Barca’s new travel schedule

March 15th, 2009 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

By Duncan Shaw
Madrid, March 15 (DPA) Josep Guardiola is raising eyebrows across Spain with his innovative travel plans for leaders Barcelona.

Teams in Spain normally travel either one or two days before away matches, then have a good rest in a local hotel. Guardiola, however, is an original thinker, and has radically changed Barca’s travel plans.

His idea is to allow his players as much time at home with their families between games, even if this means flying out actually on match day.

He has already done this several times this season, with generally positive results.

Lionel Messi and company are six points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga - and are one of the favourites to win this season’s Champions League.

His team won applause across Planet Football Wednesday for their swashbuckling 5-2 destruction of French champions Olympique Lyon.

Guardiola is so determined to give his players a good rest that he has decided not to fly out to Almeria, a bustling port in Spain’s south-eastern corner, until 12:20 (11:20 GMT) on Sunday - less than nine hours before the league games is scheduled to start.

Messi and company will land in Almeria around 15:00, if all goes according to plan, having had lunch on the plane. They will then drive to a hotel for a short rest before leaving for the stadium for the game, scheduled to start at 21:00.

According to Catalan daily Sport Saturday, Guardiola is “playing with fire” and “taking a small risk” with such a tight schedule.

The paper is worried about the players being tired and jet-lagged after the flight - and about the consequences of a delayed flight.

Sport claims that Barcelona have asked the Spanish football federation to clarify how long before a match a team needs to turn up.

Article 106 of the federation’s statutes states, somewhat ambivalently, that “if a team does not present itself with sufficient time before a game… due to negligence, and this causes the game to be suspended” then the offending team will lose 0-3.

This has not happened in La Liga for more than 30 years, but the Catalan media are clearly worried that it might happen one day with Guardiola’s team.

Guardiola, 38, was a key midfielder in the Barca “Dream Team” that Johan Cruyff constructed in the 1990s. He captained the side from 1997 to 2001, before winding down his career in Italy with Brescia and AS Roma.

He started out as a coach last season with Barca’s B team, and successfully guided the young reserves to promotion to the third division.

Even so, many people were surprised when club president Joan Laporta appointed Guardiola as first-team coach last June to replace Frank Rijkaard - because of his lack of top-line experience.

Laporta’s gamble has handsomely paid off. Guardiola’s team has played the most attractive football seen in the Camp Nou since the halcyon days of Cruyff. Even more importantly, they are clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga - and among the favourites for the Champions League.

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