Pep Guardiola’s pre-match press conference before Manchester City vs Real Madrid Champions League semi-final second leg
The Spaniard spoke to the media before City’s second leg Champions League clash against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
After Manchester City’s 1-1 draw against Real Madrid last week at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Pep Guardiola said “we have to change a tiny bit in the second leg, I have an idea.” A week later, the manager sat down in front of the press to speak about the upcoming second leg, this time at the Etihad Stadium. Guardiola confirmed that Nathan Ake is the only player injured, saying that apart from the Dutch defender, “everyone is fit”.
Will next month define your legacy: My legacy is already exceptional! We are not stupid and we know how important tomorrow is, maybe the most important since we’ve been here. I say to the players, live it like a huge opportunity, enjoy the moment. How fortunate we are. It’s in our hands, depends on us, we don’t have to do something exceptional, just be ourselves, win one game to reach the final, give everything. I have an incredible feeling about the team. Thank you so much to them for bringing us here again.
Do you want the players to play with emotion? Emotion is there and it will be high. It has to be high. But just this is not going to beat a team like Real Madrid. You have a game plan, you have to do it a little bit better than we did in the first leg, we have to adjust some things. We have to create more chances and get more balls in easy positions, we have to [be aware of] their transitions their ball quality. We are playing against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final it is the toughest opponent we could face right now. But this is the challenge, we get it and go for it.
Do you arrive in the perfect moment? We arrive really good for the fact we are in the FA Cup final, one game away from winning the Premier League title but we have to play better than in the Real Madrid game. You have to perform well, not just the desire to dream. You only have to do what you have done for many years. We have to do better [than what we did] in the Bernabéu to reach the final.
You seem more comfortable about how the owners feel about winning the Champions League: When I came here seven years ago and signed the contract they didn’t say to me to win the Champions League. The reason why they brought me here and my staff was to do the best as possible. We can’t deny it, we won all the titles except this one. We want it. We had the opportunity, two seasons ago when we lost the final against Chelsea, last season against Madrid, this season again - we want it, of course we want it. People say we are close enough to this kind of title - I think we are far away. At the same time, it happened against Madrid, it’s a dream come true to be here. Nobody guarantees that in the future well be here, once we are lets go lets go , try with out people, from the first moment until the end, be together in the bad moments, suffer in the bad moments... with our people we will do it.
Is it tougher for the opposition due to the atmosphere? I know they will be lose to us, they know what we have done over the last years and they won’t leave us alone. In the bad moments they will be with us. Of course, we have to dictate to be in the final but they will be there.
Who is favourite? I don’t know. I am not able to [say]. We are in the latter stages every season. I don’t want luck tomorrow, the team who deserves to win, hopefully wins. It doesn’t matter which one, hopefully us. We have to perform well, that is my focus. I have to put in the mind of my players that they have to do an incredible performance to beat Real Madrid otherwise it will be so difficult. I have an idea to do something differently to be more fluid in attack, but I think it is going to happen for the natural way for the fact that we play at home. At home we feel free, relieved, it doesn’t matter, we go. That’s the feeling I have. I think hopefully tomorrow we have that feeling, that’s my concern. I played 10 semi-finals in the UCL and lost seven, I have had that feeling a lot. There are many things you cannot control in football, but you can try to be yourselves, that’s my only wish for my players.
What aspects do you want to improve for the game? Hopefully you will see tomorrow, I cannot tell you, otherwise Carlo... It’s nothing special. I’m not overthinking, don’t worry guys. Nothing differently to the past, just to be a bit more fluid and play a bit better, knowing the opponent has the weapons.
Do transitions give Madrid more chances? If we had the same game tomorrow as we did last year, I would sign right now. But it’s not going to happen. Sometimes the game dictates itself, the transitions, how you lose the balls in certain positions, the accuracy, the fluidity, how you defend, how you react; this competition has a lot of uncertain things you cannot control, not even a manager or the players. We will see, we have a plan, we will try to execute it and we will try to adapt because maybe they do something differently and you have to adapt.
Did you expect City to get as far as they have done? No. I never expected to be seven years here. I have self confidence but not enough. This league is tough and the Champions League, that’s why I say many times how pleased I am.
Are the owners owed this tournament? The players don’t owe us anything. They have to just play football as best they can. It’s not necessary to tell them how good Real Madrid are. They know, they felt last season and know it this season. We are blessed to be here.
You have spoken about Madrid a lot, why are they so good in this competition? I don’t know. If I knew that I’d know how to beat them. But what is certain is that they’ve always had players of a high, high quality. Without players of that standard they wouldn’t be able to achieve it. When Milan won and we won with Barcelona, we all had top players.
What do you fear most about Madrid? The same as last year, they always have great players. They always think about what they’re going to do. It’s important to concentrate o yourself and your threats. We will try and impose ourselves on the game tomorrow. Just because you know them it doesn’t mean you can control them.
What about your legacy? Would it be better with the Champions League? There has been a great generation of players, we have won lots. My legacy is, maybe we could have a book on it, but we won’t be judged by winning the UCL or not. We have had a great time, playing great football, that’s the legacy. We had great times with Arteta too. That’s the best legacy you can have.
Is it more difficult to impose your strengths or pick apart their weaknesses? People know us well. We are going to approach in the same way, we’ve not done anything different. It wouldn’t make sense to change, you believe in yourself and think about yourself. Whether Madrid or anyone else, it’s impossible to just pick out the defects of the opposition, we’ve trained and worked hard on one or two things.
Manchester City often draw Champions League games away from home... We have to be ourselves, just don’t complicate things. It’s a tough competition. We’ve not lost here either, we won every game when we got to the final. Tomorrow, you have to play the best game. You don’t think about anything else, about the past. You get up, dress well, be on form and perform the best you can. Go out onto the field and play well.