Andres Iniesta has said that it would be tough to face his former manager Pep Guardiola when Barcelona host Manchester City at the Camp Nou this Wednesday. With Guardiola at the helm, City were off to a flying start this season, winning their first nine matches before succumbing to a 0-2 defeat to Tottenham just before the international break.
Iniesta, the 32-year old veteran, who has lifted the Champions League trophy four times with Barcelona, still remains respectful of his former manager.
"It is special to play against Pep, as it was when he was at Bayern Munich. We share important things with him as people and at a club level. It will be a difficult rivalry," he told Mundo Deportivo.
"Pep tells his players about how they should set up and his teams always have a special stamp. Also, they have great players at Manchester City."
Iniesta and Guardiola seem to share immense mutual respect as they enjoyed a tremendous professional relationship during the latter's tenure as the Barcelona manager. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has also hailed Iniesta in the past as a master of time and space.
Interestingly, an anecdote going back to Guardiola's early days at the Camp Nou demonstrates how he had the backing of Andres Iniesta even when the team was not doing well.
An understandably worried Guardiola because of his 0-1 loss to Little Numancia and 1-1 draw against Racing Santander in his first two matches had been surprised to hear Iniesta knock on his door. Back then, the daggers were already out for Guardiola though Johan Cruyff had kept the criticisms at bay by publicly backing the new manager.
It is then that Iniesta had said something that Guardiola has never forgotten.
“Don’t worry, míster. We’ll win it all. We’re on the right path. Carry on like this, OK? We’re playing brilliantly, we’re enjoying training. Please, don’t change anything,” he had said to a baffled Guardiola.
He had left saying, Vamos de puta madre!” which can be roughly translated as, “We’re in f**king great shape, we’re playing bloody brilliantly.”
It is not surprising that Iniesta maintains a great relationship with Guardiola and his respect for his former manager has not diminished one bit. Speaking about his own form, the Barcelona skipper said, "I have been healthy for many years and had the confidence of my coaches and peers and every year or so I have improved.
"It is so difficult to talk about, but you can never say that you cannot add many more games. My feeling, and hope, is to continue performing well. We'll see how far I get."
He also opened up on his relationship with the current manager Luis Enrique who was his team-mate from 2002 to 2004.
"We were team-mates, and I'm his player now. Our relationship is very good," he said.
"We talk about everything football and non-football. We have enough confidence to talk about all this but he makes the decisions and the player must fulfil his wishes.
"The style and what we seek to achieve is unlikely to change in this club. There are different ways to do this, there are different players and runs of form but the essence - not think much will change."
Though Barcelona have enjoyed indifferent form this season with their star man Lionel Messi out injured, Iniesta believes that a third treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League still remains possible.
"People are really into what we do here and the image we have of winning titles. In two years we have won many but that will not stop us from aiming for more," he said.
"Each season we start from scratch and there are different aims. We will try again this year be around titles."
More Football news, transfer rumours, analysis and features at Sportskeeda.com