MIAMI – Barcelona soccer players got to swim with the dolphins during their stay in the United States.
David Villa, Sergio Busquets, Victor Valdes and Pedro hopped in the tank Tuesday at the Miami Seaquarium during a photo shoot. They're enjoying their downtime before the match against Mexican club Chivas of Guadalajara on Wednesday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Barcelona will play the second game of its three-match U.S. tour. Manager Pep Guardiola knows there won't be many opportunities to relax once the season starts and his team begins defense of its Champions League and Spanish La Liga titles.
"We are happy to be here and play far away from our home," Guardiola said. "The support for us is so nice."
The match is part of the World Football Challenge featuring top European clubs and teams from Major League Soccer and the Mexican first division.
Barcelona opened its tour with a 2-1 loss to Champions League runner-up Manchester United on Saturday night in Landover, Md. After the match against Guadalajara, Barcelona will wrap up the tour against Mexican club America on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.
"The second day after a difficult match like Manchester's is always worse than the first. You add the trips, the humidity the heat, that's why you lessen the workload," Guardiola said.
Guardiola expects to substitute freely against Guadalajara, which lost its first two Challenge matches against Real Madrid and Juventus. He said Villa, midfielder Xabi and defender Gerard Pique will play limited minutes, while defender Carles Puyol will remain sidelined to recover from a knee injury.
Forward Lionel Messi, midfielder Javier Mascherano and defender Gabriel Milito will rejoin the club in Spain. They are sitting out the tour after representing Argentina in Copa America last month.
"Playing for Barcelona is something you wish for since you are a kid," said Villa, who joined Barcelona last summer after Spain's 2010 World Cup championship. "We are looking for similar results as last year. I am happy to be here another year and happy to be part of this team. This is not easy. We had difficult competition last year and we expect it again this year. When you play for a great team like Barca, you expect nothing less."
Barcelona will focus on Guadalajara and America before a two-game set with La Liga rival Real Madrid for the Super Copa Aug. 14 and 17 and the league opener against Malaga on Aug. 21.
"The Mexican league is very competitive," Guardiola said. "The games are hard-fought. The league has tremendous passion."
Guadalajara already began its league season and is 2-0.
"We have been extremely fortunate because in the past 15 days we've had the opportunity to face three of the best clubs in the world," Guadalajara manager Jose Luis Real said. "Barcelona deserves all the admiration and respect, but we have to do everything in our power to give a good performance in front of the spectators and win the game."
Despite Mesi's absence, officials said more than 60,000 tickets have been sold for the match.
"This is the type of match any football player would like to play," said Guadalajara defender and team captain Hector Reynoso. "It is a game you enjoy, but you also want the positive result."