Yokohama, Japan, Dec 13: Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is trying to get his players to relax ahead of their Club World Cup semifinal, combatting impressions that complacency is the only impediment to the Spanish giant claiming another trophy.
Barcelona trained in Japan on Monday in preparation for Thursday's clash with Qatari club Al-Sadd.
Guardiola will take his squad on a sightseeing tour around Tokyo on Tuesday, trying to freshen his players' minds after the weekend's key win over arch rival Real Madrid.
“I'm trying to give them as much freedom as possible so they can relax,” Guardiola said. “We want them to get rid of the fatigue from previous matches so they can concentrate. We are here to become champions of the Club World Cup.”
After the sightseeing tour, there will be a training session where they will interact with children from the areas affected by the devastating March 11 tsunami and earthquake.
“Every time we come over to Japan, we receive a warm welcome,” Guardiola said. “We want to interact with the Japanese people and show our power on the pitch.”
Barcelona is returning to the tournament two years after claiming the title in the United Arab Emirates, when Lionel Messi scored the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Argentina's Estudiantes.
European champion Barcelona and South American champion Santos of Brazil are the seeded teams and don't enter the tournament until the semifinal stage begins.
Santos will play J-League champion Kashiwa Reysol, who beat CONCACAF champion Monterrey of Mexico in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Asian champions Al-Sadd progressed to the final four with a 2-1 win over African champions Esperance of Tunisia.
Al-Sadd will be rank outsiders against Barcelona despite strong spending to strengthen the squad in recent times, adding former Lille, Lyon and Galatasaray forward Kader Keita, former Marseille striker Mamadou Niang and Brazilian striker Leandro, who is familiar with Japanese conditions after several years in the J-League.
Guardiola said Messi appears to have endured the long journey from Spain without any problems.
“Leo is not extremely tired,” Guardiola noted. “He seems to be OK.”
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol made it clear that he and his teammates know it will be a challenge for them to emerge triumphant in this event.
“We are very confident after the win over Real Madrid and we are very highly motivated,” Puyol said. “But it will not be easy to win in this tournament. It is always tough.”
Puyol reflected on Saturday's victory over Real Madrid, which ended the nine-time European champions' 15-match winning streak in all competitions, while also looking ahead to his side's next task.
“The match on Saturday was a very good one. We were able to display our football,” he said. “To win the title here is extra important to us. We had to win the Champions League first to get here.”
Barcelona was beaten 1-0 in the final of the 2006 Club World Cup by Internacional of Brazil.