Guardiola: Champions League semi-final second leg harder than the final

By Sports Desk May 03, 2021

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City players are facing the toughest task in European football as they take on Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Second-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez saw City come from behind to claim a 2-1 win in Paris last week, putting them in prime position to reach their first final in Europe's top competition.

Guardiola is a two-time winner dating back to his Barcelona tenure a decade ago, but knows the semi-final stage can be particularly unforgiving.

Inter and Chelsea ended Barca's title defences at the penultimate hurdle in 2010 and 2012, while LaLiga heavyweights Real Madrid, Barca and Atletico accounted for Bayern Munich in the semis across Guardiola's three seasons in Bavaria.

"From my experience, the semi-final is always difficult," he told a pre-match news conference, having confirmed City have all senior players available with the exception of back-up defender Eric Garcia, who is laid low with a sickness bug.

"You play with the result of the first leg, you play with the mind here [thinking] final, final, final. Sometimes you can forget what you have to do.

"Always in my experience the second leg of the semi-final is the difficult one. The final is completely different, it doesn't mean it's easier, it's completely different."

Not that Guardiola feels his previous years sampling the highs and lows of the Champions League will have much bearing against Mauricio Pochettino's side, nor City's own trials, having finally snapped a run of three consecutive quarter-final exits.

"I don't know if it works in this competition, in this moment, experience," he said.

"I'd like to feel we've learned from our defeats but I don't know how we're going to react – it's always a mystery.

"The disappointment we had, especially in the last two seasons in the quarter-finals against Spurs and Lyon, being here again is nice.

"I'd love to say we'd learned from that but maybe tomorrow we can play a bad game. At the same time, what I think right now is we'll do an incredible game and reach the final.

"This is my feeling, but if the other ones are better we congratulate the opponent. We don't want to miss this opportunity by not being ourselves. I've a feeling we are going to do well."

Guardiola has frequently urged City to "be who we are" in the face of crunch moments this season – an approach that has left them on the brink of a third Premier League title in four attempts and secured a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

It was also a feature of his team talks as City turned around half-time deficits away from home against Borussia Dortmund and PSG to lie within touching distance of a maiden Champions League final.

Having been accused, sometimes unfairly, of over-thinking major European nights in his career, a yearning to keep things simple appears to be Guardiola's mantra this time around.

"Sometimes, in these type of games, you don't need much emotions. Start to be more calm and know exactly what you have to do," he said.

"I don't have to tell anyone what we've lived through for 11 months, not just players – the backroom staff, the physios, the doctors, the cooks. Everybody knows how important it is and how we have been looking, for many, many years, for this moment."

Guardiola added: "We spoke a lot yesterday and today about who we are, what we have to do. It's not necessary to speak more about PSG because we played against them one week ago.

"I speak about us, us and us and what we have to do. We are going to try to do it."

Related items

  • Courtois celebrates Champions League final heroics with brick wall tattoo Courtois celebrates Champions League final heroics with brick wall tattoo

    Thibaut Courtois has commemorated his man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final after unveiling a tattoo of a brick wall on his arm.

    The Belgium international produced an inspired display between the sticks as Real Madrid edged out Liverpool 1-0 at Stade de France to claim their 14th continental crown.

    Courtois' nine saves during the match made up the highest tally in a single Champions League final since at least 2003-04, surpassing Liverpool's Allison (in 2019) and Manchester United's Edwin Van der Sar (in 2011), both with eight.

    He also set a new benchmark with the number of saves he made during Madrid's run (59)

    The Reds finished the final having attempted 24 shots, the most on record from a team who failed to score in European football's showpiece match.

    It stands to reason then that Courtois should want something to remember the final by, and he has settled on a new tattoo, revealed to his 10.5 million Instagram followers.

    The design has Courtois' initials and shirt number set against a brick wall next to the Champions League trophy.

  • Rumour Has It: Chelsea, Roma circling for Ronaldo Rumour Has It: Chelsea, Roma circling for Ronaldo

    Although Cristiano Ronaldo's affection for Manchester United is without doubt, his return to Old Trafford has not gone as he might have planned.

    Following Erik ten Hag's arrival, Ronaldo's reported concern over United's apparent lack of transfer activity has made other clubs explore possibilities to sign him.

    Reports suggest that a couple of clubs have already made their interest indirectly known.

    TOP STORY – CHELSEA, ROMA CIRCLING FOR RONALDO

    Chelsea and Roma have expressed their interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, according to reports.

    The Athletic has reported Chelsea, with Todd Boehly installing himself as interim sporting director after his consortium's takeover of the club, met with Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes to discuss the possibility of his transfer.

    Ronaldo has a year left on his contract, and the possibility of him leaving after only one season has grown with Erik ten Hag's arrival.

    Meanwhile, Retesport are reporting the Giallorossi are keen to sign the 37-year-old, with the Friedkin group looking to reunite him with former boss Jose Mourinho and build on the team's Conference League triumph.

    ROUND-UP

    – In the background, United are increasingly confident they will be able to land Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong for a fee of £69million (€80.2m), Goal reports.

    – Also, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel has made contact with Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling, according to the Telegraph.

    – Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks over a deal for Neymar amid Chelsea's interest, per AS.

    – Leeds United are preparing a £26million (€30.2m) bid for Club Brugge's Charles de Ketelaere, the Daily Mail reports.

  • Rumour Has It: Arsenal agree to £45million fee for Man City striker Gabriel Jesus Rumour Has It: Arsenal agree to £45million fee for Man City striker Gabriel Jesus

    Gabriel Jesus could be set for a move to Arsenal after the club came to a £45million agreement with Manchester City to pry away the 25-year-old striker, according to reports.

    It had previously been claimed the Gunners were offering £30m – well short of City's £50m asking price – but were given some added motivation when Tottenham apparently entered the race.

    The Brazil international ended the season in fine form at City, scoring four times in the 5-1 win against Watford in April, but could he be on his way to the Emirates Stadium?

    TOP STORY – ARSENAL RAISE OFFER AND AGREE TO JESUS FEE

    According to The Athletic, Gabriel Jesus is on the verge of a big money move to Arsenal.

    The striker's relationship with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta dates back to the Spaniard's days as assistant coach to Pep Guardiola at City, giving him a unique insight into Jesus' progression since arriving in the Premier League.

    The Athletic's report includes that the arrivals of both Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez to City in this transfer period would have significantly hindered Jesus' playing time if he were to stay.

    ROUND-UP

    – Sky Sports report that Chelsea have offered Timo Werner to Juventus as part of negotiations for Dutch centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, with the Blues unwilling to meet his release clause, said to be set at €120m.

    Christian Eriksen is deciding between staying at Brentford or accepting a larger contract offer to move to Manchester United, with Sky Sports reporting he may be unwilling to move from the Bees for family reasons.

    Everton, Wolves and West Ham are keeping a close eye on former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum as the 31-year-old has been told he can leave Paris Saint-Germain this transfer period, according to 90min.

    – Spanish publication Sport say Leeds United winger Raphinha has shunned other Premier League clubs in an effort to push his way to Barcelona.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.