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Guardiola admits City will be judged by Champions League success or failure

Manchester City’s progress in the Champions League will hinge on Tuesday’s return leg against RB Leipzig.

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts as he attends a press conference at Manchester City training ground in Manchester, north-west England on March 13, 2023, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg football match against RB Leipzig. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Pep Guardiola says he is aware that his legacy at Manchester City will be judged on whether he of capable of delivering the club’s first Champions League. This is the Catalan coach’s seventh attempt at bringing the trophy back to Manchester, with City making it as far as the quarter finals three times, and reaching the semi-final last season and the final the year before that. It is almost 12 years since Guardiola last tasted success in the competition - his Barcelona side were crowned champions in 2011 but in the 10 editions since then, he had had no luck.

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And with Tottenham falling by the wayside and Liverpool looking likely to join them this week, England’s hopes of success in this year’s tournament could rest on City and Chelsea (who are already through to the quarter finals after beating AC Milan). Guardiola’s side head into Tuesday’s return leg needing a win at the Etihad. Josko Gvardiol cancelled out Riyad Mahrez’s opener in last month’s first leg to leave the tie wide open.

City in training this morning.
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City in training this morning.PAUL ELLISAFP

City go into the game as the favourites - just one defeat at the Etihad in all competitions this season (to giant-killing Brentford); Olympique Lyon were the last European club to beat City at their stadium, recording a 1-3 in their visit in August 2020. Meanwhile Leipzig’s last visit to Manchester (in last year’s group stage) ended in a 6-3 defeat. In today’s press conference, Guardiola insisted that City are “always one of the main favourites”, despite never having lifted the trophy.

When asked whether he thinks he will ultimately be judged on whether he can bring City their first piece of European silverware since the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970, Guardiola was in no doubt. “Yes,” he replied. “It doesn’t mean I agree with that, but absolutely we will be judged for this competition, definitely. In Day 1, when I first arrived here, in the Champions League, they asked me when I had only just arrived, ‘You are here to win the Champions League...’ I said, ‘What?!’ If I was the coach at Real Madrid, I could understand it, but here... I don’t know, but I accept it. It’s not going to change”.

City alive in three competitions

Guardiola agreed that advancing to the quarter finals would also take the pressure off his players going into the international break. On the domestic front, City are in the quarter finals of the FA Cup and trail leaders Arsenal by five points in the Premier League. “It’s really important. It really is. It will be a bad international break for the guys that don’t go with their national teams. To be alive for the last two months of the season, you do what you you can to extend it, to be there in the competition, to have the pleasure of still being in Europe, or in the Premier League, to try to be close to Arsenal, that would be good,” he said.

Leipzig’s situation isn’t too dissimilar to City’s - they sit third in the Bundesliga, seven points adrift of Bayern Munich and will face Borussia Dortmund in the quarter finals of the DFB-Pokal next month. Marco Rose’s team have won three and lost two in their last five outings in the league and Guardiola was quick to acknowledge that they are a quality side. “Every team at this stage has a lot of qualities and many strengths. Tomorrow, we have to impose our game and do what we have to do. We have to win the game, so it is easy,” he concluded. “It is not about how many goals we have to score; it is just to win the game - that is what we have to do.”