Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola isn’t out for revenge in Champions League against Real Madrid
The Premier League leaders came within touching distance of last year’s final only to collapse in the final moments at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is no stranger to facing Real Madrid, which he did many times as player at Barcelona, and has also done on a number of occasions managing La Blaugrana, Bayern Munich and now the Premier League leaders. For the second season in succession, the Sky Blues face Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the semi-finals of the Champions League and do not have especially fond memories from 12 months ago, when they were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the final minute of the second leg at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, only to unbelievably concede three goals in final minute and stoppage time.
Guardiola’s charges will play the second leg at home this time around and, in his pre-match press conference before the first leg, the former Barça man insists his team will not be out for revenge when the tie gets underway on Tuesday.
What happened at the end of last year’s semi-final? Were those the most traumatic five minutes of your career?
It was tough, of course it was tough. But the first leg was exceptional, and the second leg, very good. Not exceptional, but very good. That’s how soccer is, it wasn’t enough. In life and in soccer, you always have to pick yourself up.
City will reach the Champions League final “someday”
Were City better than Real Madrid last year? Does that give extra motivation?
We don’t need extra motivation, not anymore. We played well in both matches, but we’re not here for ‘revenge’. We’re simply here to try to reach the final, nothing else. If we persist, someday we’ll achieve it. Madrid know exactly what it takes in this competition.
Is the team better prepared this year?
I don’t like to think in negative or positive terms. 80-90% of the players are the same, on both sides. What I know is that the tie will be decided in Manchester.
Do you feel better about your chances this season?
Look, to win this competition, you have to beat the best teams. And Madrid are the best team in this competition. They’ve proven it in the last two decades. In the first leg last year, we played an exceptional match. And in the second leg, it wasn’t exceptional, but we played well. And it wasn’t enough! So, congratulations to Madrid... and here we are again.
Guardiola’s Champions League expectations
Do you feel closer to winning a Champions League with City?
When I arrived, I thought I would win it, the same the following year... and the next. And last season, the same. That’s my mentality. We’re here to try again. But I wouldn’t like to be at a team that wins the Champions League once and then falls behind in the league or goes through ten years of decline. No, you have to be consistent. We aim to be like Barcelona or Liverpool, always being there. That’s a sign of a healthy club. I’m a Barça fan, and it took them a long time to reach a final. Everything is a process, and stability is important.
Rodri mentioned “an opportunity for revenge”...
Well, we’re not here for revenge, no. What happened last season happened, and that’s it. This is another opportunity, nothing more. We come with the mindset to try again, knowing that to achieve it, we must be better. The best lesson we can learn from last season is that we’re not here for revenge, but for a good result. And to have a chance to reach the final when we get back to Manchester.
What is your main objective?
We can’t go crazy, but of course, when a club doesn’t have a trophy, they want it. Tomorrow will be a special occasion, and we’re going all out to win.
How important will the mental factor be in tomorrow’s match?
We came here in a better mental state last year after winning the first leg... and look what happened. Mendy cleared the ball off the line, and you know what happened next. Those fine lines can take you to the final or not. There’s a cross where maybe we should have made a different pass, maybe we should have controlled possession; I don’t know, I don’t know. We have to put in outstanding performances in both matches, otherwise, it will be very difficult.
“How can you not take advantage of Haaland?”
How have Manchester City changed compared to last year?
I’ve always liked how we’ve played, and this year as well. High pressure, man-to-man... but our opponents also play, and sometimes it’s tough. They’re not pushovers, are they? Tomorrow there will be moments when we’ll be up against it, like in all of these knockout ties. But when you have Haaland, how can you not take advantage of him?! Well, we’ll play for him!
Does playing the second leg at home give you an advantage?
I don’t know. Well, if there’s extra time, it’s better to play it at home, yes. But it depends on the draw. But I believe that we are capable of winning away from home, and Madrid are too.
What do you think the main takeaway from tomorrow’s game will be?
No idea... no idea. I’ve been to this stadium a lot, as a player and as a coach. And the truth is, I have no idea.