It could be Guardiola's 11th and final round with Mourinho

Intense battles with Mourinho will end if exhausted Barcelona coach walks away

Barcelona

Pep Guardiola prepares to take on Jose Mourinho tonight in what will be their 11th meeting in 18 months. It is as difficult to call as any of the 10 previous clasicos, a far safer bet might be banking on it being their last.

They could go a 12th round on 19 May in Munich in the Champions League final, but disappointing semi-final first-leg results for Barcelona and Real Madrid have made that far less likely, and less probable still, is that both coaches will agree to stay put for another season.

Guardiola is now refusing even to answer questions on the subject of renewing his current deal that runs out at the end of June. "I don't have good memories of the Madrid-Barça games – neither the victories nor the defeats – there were always other things that took away from the football. Good luck to the referee," he said last night, adding that he had not thought about whether this game at the Nou Camp would be his last confrontation with Mourinho.

With soundbites such as "I never said, I wanted to leave" and "I have two years left on my contract", Mourinho has retreated from the stance adopted at the start of the year when his exit looked certain but his options remain open. His decision will depend on honours accumulated, offers on the table, and – if things go wrong between now and the end of the season – the opinions of his employers. Guardiola's choice seems far less straightforward.

The Barcelona coach told the club's sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, last November that he did not feel he had the physical and mental strength for another season. The doubts were expressed as his assistant, Tito Vilanova, had emergency surgery to remove a tumour in his throat.

He has returned to work but those close to Guardiola and his No 2 suggest ongoing concerns about the need for Vilanova to reduce his workload and the Barcelona coach's lack of appetite to continue without his trusted assistant are in part behind his unwillingness to commit.

The club captain, Xavi Hernandez, said this week: "We don't talk about it in the dressing room. We want him to continue, but it is up to him."

Guardiola has also been strained by the intensity of his incredible first four years at the club. "If we reach the Champions League final we will have played every possible match in three of the four seasons" he said ahead of this week's semi-final first leg.

It seems most likely that he would take a year out, not accepting any of the offers that have already reached his agent, Josep Maria Orobitg, if he decides to leave. The current Athletic Bilbao coach, Marcelo Bielsa, and former Barcelona player Ernesto Valverde, who has just quit Olympiakos after winning his third Greek Super League, are options.

His players are the only ones who can convince him to continue, say those who believe Guardiola is currently closer to walking than staying. They can start by winning tonight to take them to within one point of Real, who led La Liga by 10 points a month ago.

"If we win it will give us a boost ahead of the Chelsea game but if we don't get the result then these players are capable of picking themselves up for a different competition," he said. Asked if he felt frustrated by the defeat at Stamford Bridge he added: "It is wrong to use the word frustrating. When one team puts 11 players in the box, 11! Drogba was in the box too, it is not simple. With all that defence it was impressive that we created so many chances."

Suggested Topics
Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?