Manager says side must be clinical to overturn 3-0 first-leg deficit
Hopes players will be inspired to achieve remarkable comeback
Pep Guardiola has challenged his Manchester City team to play “the perfect game” to overcome Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
City trail Jürgen Klopp’s side 3-0 and they followed last Wednesday’s defeat in the first match at Anfield by losing at home to Manchester United 3-2 on Saturday, after surrendering a two-goal lead and missing the chance to clinch the Premier League title.
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Guardiola is conscious his players may be affected mentally by these reverses and, while striking a positive note by saying his side can use the challenge as inspiration, he understands how difficult the task is.
“Of course to go through you have to make the perfect game, create chances, be clinical and concede few chances,” said the Catalan. “All the conditions have to be perfect. The aim is tough but we have 90 minutes and in football everything can happen.
“What we are going to do is try. We have to score the first one, then make the second one. The perfect scenario is to go through. At the end we cannot forget that it is a simple game [of football] and focus on every single minute. If we concede, don’t give up – it’s more than 90 minutes [with added time]. Many times we have created a lot of chances in a short period. We have to be clinical and if we are not then move on to the next [chance].”
If Liverpool score once City would have to register five times to progress to the semi-finals due to the away goal rule but Guardiola agreed the dream of giving City a historic night in the competition and elevate the club’s standing can inspire players.
“I agree. We need titles in Europe – it’s complicated [to achieve] but you need nights that make you understand it. Beating Barça [3-1, last season] was so special because we know they’re the best team in the world,” he said, before claiming City can win the Champions League in the near future.
“It will happen sooner or later – what this club has done in the last 10 years in terms of creating facilities and making it bigger means it will happen. Hopefully we can do it. Maybe it is next year but soon it will happen.
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“To reach the semi-final would be for the second time in our beautiful history. I don’t have to talk about how beautiful it is. They show every single game what they want to do [my side]. I know you judge results, but performance? My team is extraordinary. Exceptional. It is a joy to be manager of the team, I am so delighted.”
Guardiola is confident City can match anyone in Europe but is unsure if they are ready to claim the Champions League this season. “This team is ready to fight with all the teams but the other teams are so good, it is difficult – a mountain – but we can compete, especially at home. For the next step maybe we need more time. Next season we will be better.”
Regarding the potential mental damage done by back-to-back defeats, Guardiola said: “I don’t know but if we are not able to do it, it will be a good lesson for the future. A good test. Football is a challenge like life. We are happy to handle it. We have 90 minutes plus extra time and what we’ve shown this year – even in the last game we created a lot of chances in a few minutes and the opponents know that.”
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