UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Pep Guardiola: Manchester City “didn’t do anything special” despite UEFA Champions League victory
The Premier League leaders kick off the defence of the trophy they won last season against Red Star Belgrade at the Etihad on Tuesday.
The group stage of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League gets underway this week, with Manchester City looking to retain the trophy they won in Istanbul back in June. Pep Guardiola’s side kick off this season’s campaign at home to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday and, in his pre-match press conference before the Group G opener, the former Barcelona head coach has sent a warning to his team as they aspire to achieve the rare feat of winning the competition in back-to-back years.
Guardiola: “How many teams have won the Champions League once?”
How do you approach the challenge of defending the trophy you won last year?
“Every season starts with the first game and every time we have the same objective: to win. First in the group stage, then in the round of 16... But now we are only thinking about Red Star and our own level and our performance. We are incredibly happy to have the chance to defend the title. This competition is unforgiving if you slip up. We have always been strong at home and tomorrow we have to take that first step again”.
Are you more relaxed after winning the Champions League last season?
“The most important thing is that the players do not relax. If the board of directors are relaxed, that’s fine, they aren’t the ones who have to score goals. It is incredible that our club won the Champions League, but how many teams have done it? Let’s put things into perspective, we didn’t do anything special, we’ve only won it once. It was something the club hadn’t achieved and we are proud to have been a part of it”.
City hoping to join elite club including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich
What is the challenge now?
“We have always tried to win the Champions League since I came here, but in the first year we lost against Monaco. Nothing changes. We are happy to look at photos with the four trophies we won last season, that makes me very happy. I want to create great memories, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. That is the challenge, and this is the competition. We have to try, and I have no doubt that we will. Only Real Madrid and Milan have won it back-to-back (Benfica, Inter, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest also did it). I was incredibly proud when we won it twice with Barcelona, but they weren’t in consecutive years. It’s difficult, but we have to try, and if we can’t, we will qualify for next season and try again”.
How is Kyle Walker?
He is more focused than ever. You can always do things better. It is not easy to be as consistent as him. He played 90 minutes for England and then another 90 against a team as demanding as West Ham and their wingers. I hope he can keep going the way he’s going and we can give him a rest.
Winger Doku “an incredible threat” for City
How do you assess the way Jérémy Doku has started at City?
When you are a winger, you can face up the full-back and take him on, you have the opportunity to beat him. Sometimes you have to go back or wait for support to get to the goal line. He does that a lot, which is why I was impressed with him. I knew the quality he had, but I didn’t expect him to have that ability. Julián (Álvarez), Erling (Haaland) and Phil (Foden) have to be close to the penalty area because this guy knows how to dribble and they have to be in the right position. He is an incredible threat. I hadn’t seen a winger try to take on his man so often in a really long time. It might not come off every week, but he has the quality to try”.