Agadir, Morocco – Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola says he has no intention of taking the Club World Cup lightly as his European champions prepare to face China's Guangzhou Evergrande in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Guardiola has already enjoyed a glittering coaching career and is the only boss to have already won this competition twice, in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona.
And even though his team come into the competition as overwhelming favourites, the Catalan is not taking anything for granted.
“This tournament is very important, very prestigious. It's not easy to qualify for it, nor to win it,” he said.
“There are only two matches, the semi-final and the final, and simply put, we have to win them.
“You don't have the good fortune to take part in this competition very often in your life as a professional footballer and I'd like to express my gratitude to the team and (predecessor) Juup Heynckes because thanks to them I am here today.”
Although he has won the Champions League twice, the Spanish title three times and even managed a treble including the Spanish Cup in his first season as a coach, Guardiola will not be the senior figure in the dugout on Tuesday.
Opposite him will be Italian 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, who reappeared in China last year after a two-year hiatus following his second, and unsuccessful, spell in charge of the Azzurri.
For all Guardiola has won, his CV does not yet match that of Lippi, who led Juventus to the 1996 Champions League crown and five Serie A titles, before doing the league and cup double with Guangzhou in his first season, with a league and Asian Champions League double in 2013.
Yet Lippi himself has been impressed with the younger coach's career so far.
“Guardiola is an intelligent and capable person. We've seen what he's done with Barcelona and Bayern, he's changed teams but kept on winning,” said the 65-year-old.
“He's brought with him his philosophy of play, slowly but with sureness.”
Lippi knows his team, the first ever Chinese participants in the competition, have little chance of upsetting the odds, even suggesting they only have a one percent possibility.
“We're going to play against one of the best teams in the world.
“When you play a match against a team like this, out of 100 matches you lose 99 but you can win one and I hope that will be the next one. You never know.”
If Bayern do win the tournament it would be their fifth trophy of the year having won the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup back in May and then added the European Super Cup in August.
However, they did lose out to Borussia Dortmund in the German Supercup so will not be able to match the achievements of Guardiola's Barcelona in 2009.
Even so, Bayern's French winger Franck Ribery, who is on the three-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, alongside the holders of the trophy the last five years in Lionel Messi (2009-2012) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2008), wants to finish the calendar year on a positive note.
“It's been a good year for everyone at Bayern. Now we've got two matches left before going on holiday,” said Ribery, referring to the German League winter break.
“We're here to play well, be serious and win the trophy.”
The winners will face either Atletico Mineiro of Brazil or hosts Raja Casablanca in Saturday's final.
The second semi-final takes place Wednesday, with Raja's Ivory Coast quarter-final match-winner Kouko Guehi particularly looking forward to facing former Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho.
“Ever since I was a child my dream was to see Ronaldinho in the flesh and to play against him,” he said. “It's huge!” – Sapa-AFP