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In Los Angeles for preseason training, the great club from Spain takes the first step to defending their many titles by playing preparation matches versus Major league Soccer competition, starting with the Galaxy.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Yes, the members of FC Barcelona seemed to like the weather in Southern California. They complimented the city and their hosts as very professional, and claimed they were happy to be starting their preseason in the U.S.

But the three trophies arrayed at a nearby table spoke to the formidable task ahead for Barcelona. After having accomplished what no Spanish team had ever done before in claiming the treble of the Copa del Rey, the La Liga title and the Champions League trophy, how could they possibly avoid a let down?

Coach Joseph "Pep" Guardiola maintained that the secret to it all would be to look unblinkingly ahead at the next task.

"We can lose to any team if we're not careful," Guardiola said. "We've got to focus on each match."

In that vein, Barcelona wasn't looking past even MLS competition. While AC Milan's Clarence Seedorf couldn't name one Galaxy player other than David Beckham before the friendly the Italian club played against the squad, all three FC Barcelona members at the press conference in Beverly Hills not only knew Landon Donovan's name, but aspects of his play that could be a threat.

"He's a great player," said Barcelona captain Carles Puyol. "He's very fast. He goes straight to goal. He has great mobility and he's very dangerous."

In general, there was a sense that the game of soccer was progressing in the U.S.

"They did well in the Confederations Cup," observed Guardiola. "They're growing up as a national team."

Guardiola took on most of the questions, including one that touched on the intergration of newly-acquired striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"We're very proud that he's with us," said Guardiola, though he noted that recent hand surgery would keep the forward from playing for a while.

Whether they wanted to or not, the Barcelona players also came to understand that the USA-Mexico game is a big deal. There were no less than three questions in a short press conference devoted to the topic.

"Marquez is a great player," Guardiola answered to one query.

Puyol, the team captain, wasn't flustered by a question that asked if Madrid could snatch away the league title.

"It's not only Madrid who is a threat in Spain. I think there's a lot of quality in the league and we'll have to work very hard again to be champions."

Despite battling Beckham as a Real Madrid player for years, Puyol bore no grudge to English midfielder.

"That was in the past," Puyol said. "He's here now."

Although the team trophies were in the room, Guardiola was similarly inclined to look to the future and not at those former accomplishments.

 "Those are now in a museum, not on the field," Guardiola said. "We have to fight for them again."

Though he was asked only a couple of questions at the media event, Daniel Alves had perhaps the most practical take of all on the upcoming match.

"It's a preparation game. We're just starting things out, but we want to improve and be at a good level."

Andrea Canales, Goal.com


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