Guardiola's side suffer bout of unwelcome self-doubt

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The Independent Online

The loud speakers of the Mestalla Stadium blared out London Calling by The Clash ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey final – the same tune will now play out for Pep Guardiola as he looks to pick his side up and dust them down after their first ever reverse against Real Madrid since he took over in 2008. Forget the Cup, look to the Champions League was the message and all La Liga observers were left wondering if that would be as easy as it sounded.

Things will never be quite the same again for Guardiola after Wednesday night. Having won eight of a possible 10 trophies since taking over and leaving Real in his shadow, his domination of the enemy has finally been broken. The appearance of infallibility that he always warned supporters would not last forever has finally gone.

Now it remains to be seen if Guardiola can lift his players and make that London final of the Champions League – something that matters far more to the club's supporters than the defeat in Valencia – or if a wind of change is not now blowing through Spanish football in favour of Real.

"We have to regroup and get back to concentrating on our main aim which has always been to win the league. We cannot think about the final when we have a game against Osasuna this weekend," he said. But although Barça now look certain to win La Liga, it is the Champions League final at Wembley, where they first won the trophy in 1992, that really matters and there is the growing fear that as Real get stronger Guardiola is running out of players.

Adriano yesterday confirmed that he will miss the next four weeks with an abdominal injury and the midfielder joins Bojan Krkic on the sidelines for probably the rest of the season.

Barça are already missing Eric Abidal, while captain Carles Puyol limps from one injury to another – he came back after a two month lay-off against Real at the weekend but did not complete the 90 minutes and missed the Cup final.

There is a feeling in Catalonia that Barcelona's team now picks itself thanks to a dangerous lack of competition for places and the club is playing for not reinforcing the squad at the start of the season.

Guardiola has worked miracles in his first three seasons but this could be his biggest challenge yet – overcoming the doubts sown by Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat. A London final is the reward but with a third match away from the Nou Camp against Real in the space of two weeks to be negotiated next Wednesday, it will be anything but easy.

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