Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola reveals extra motivation for Champions League demolition of Real Madrid
The Premier League leaders will face Serie A side Inter in the Champions League final in Istanbul after taking Madrid apart.
Pep Guardiola’s critics have hit out at him for his recent lack of success in the Champipns League but that could all be about to change. After winning the competition with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, the former Spain midfielder has been unable to get over the line with Bayern Munich and City, losing a final with the latter to Chelsea in 2021. However, the Sky Blues thrashed Real Madrid at the City of Manchester Stadium on Wedneday and will now take on Inter in another final in Istanbul on 10 June.
Guardiola: “It’s our turn this year”
Guardiola spoke in the mixed zone in the immediate aftermath of the 4-0 win over Madrid, emphasising that his team used last year’s semi-final defeat at the hands of the same opponents as motivation.
Did you expect to be so much better than them?
Obviously not. The way we lost to them last year still left a bitter taste in our mouths. Today, we got rid of it. Our attitude was fantastic and we played spectacularly well. Very happy to be in the final.
How did you improve so much from first leg?
In the first leg, we played with an extra central midfielder in a deeper position, today he was further forward. So we had more fluidity in attack. We showed the perfect after hurting for a year. As Kroos said, if we had won 6, 7, or 8-0 in last year’s first leg... it would’ve been fair enough. But it ended up being a close result, and the Bernabéu is the Bernabéu.
Courtois’ fantastic performance.
Well, I know they gave the Ballon d’Or to Benzema last year, but if they had given it to Courtois, it wouldn’t have been a problem. He had a great match today. At 2-0... we tried to rush things too much. Just after half time, Gündogan lost the ball, and De Bruyne tried to start two counter-attacks when it wasn’t necessary. We should have pressed them and turned them a lot! Press them and turn them! And we did the opposite. But in the end, you’re so close to it... it’s not anxiety, but you rush things. Anyway, we played superbly overall.
How do you assess Rodri’s performance?
What a season he’s had! Everyone talks about Haaland, but without him, this wouldn’t have been possible. He has become our best midfielder, he’s having an outstanding year. We are very, very happy.
This is your year in the Champions League, then?
Well... what can I tell you? An Italian team is an Italian team. We’ll have to fight hard. There will be time for that. Now, we need to focus on becoming Premier League champions (on Sunday). But for now, we are already there (in the final). It’s our turn this year.
Guardiola: “Sport gives you a second chance”
Guardiola then moved into the press room, where he took part in his official post-match press conference. He again talked about drawing energy from last year’s semi-final defeat and was keen to stress the humility within the City squad.
Congratulations on your team’s performance.
We had to perform well considering the level of our opponents, especially in the first half, when we were very, very good.
In these last few days, I felt mix of calmness and tension. After 15 minutes, we felt the same pain we felt last year. We played very well last year, and I remember Kroos saying that Madrid are special because they could have lost 10-1 at the Etihad last year. And Kroos is one of the best players I have coached. Sport always gives you an opportunity, and you have to make an effort. We are one game away from winning the Premier League for the third year in a row. And if that happens, along with two Champions League finals and a semi-final... that’s called consistency. My players are very humble in every match. There is no arrogance. And we don’t want to pretend to be what we are not. Today, they got their reward. Now we have to focus on Chelsea, and then on Inter.
You were losing finalists two years ago.
It was the atmosphere we needed. Playing at home versus playing away is completely different. Playing at the Bernabéu is so tough.
You haven’t lost in 23 games.
It’s not about the number of victories. It’s about the attitude of the players. I knew that against Sheffield United, Laporte, Foden and the others who aren’t regular starters played very well and then they played against Madrid. This team always performs well. They are very humble.
Grealish said he feels the team is unstoppable.
I don’t like that. Any team can be stopped. It can change overnight, and I don’t want that to happen. We cannot relax. Brentford is a tough opponent.
Don’t you want to talk about the treble?
No. We are one victory away in each competition. We are very close. There is a lot of work left to do. And high-quality work. That’s why we work really hard.
You said you played a very similar game to last year.
I have the feeling that we played with the pain of carrying last year’s defeat for the whole year. We drew energy and desire from it. We congratulate Madrid because that’s the way soccer is, but I also have the feeling that sport gives you a second chance. And this time we were lucky and took advantage of it.
How big a victory is it and does it marks the end of an era for Real Madrid?
It’s not up to me to judge Real Madrid. I just know that they’re a fantastic team. In the first half, we played very, very well. Beating them the way we did is really satisfying.