Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City “will suffer” against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night but may ultimately be “remembered forever” as the first team in club history to reach a Champions League final.
The city manager remains wary of the threat posed by the champions of France and has insisted that it will be impossible for his team to control the semi-final return as they did in the second half of last week’s 2-1 victory in Paris. However, Guardiola expects his team to innovate and secure a first appearance on the biggest stage in European football. .
“I don’t have to tell anyone – the players, the backstage staff, the doctors, the cooks – how important it is. We’ve been looking for that moment for many, many years, ”said the city manager, who reached a Champions League final 10 years ago with Barcelona.
“In this match, we’re not going to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half in Paris. It’s not going to happen. I would love that, but it won’t happen. They have to understand that there is going to be a big battle, a difficult game and times to suffer, but we are going to react well and impose what we have to do.
“We just have to do what we’ve been doing this season, and that means in the bad times just stay calm, grab the ball, get our momentum back and try to win the game. It will happen. What will make the difference is the extent of our good times and how quickly we go to play where we want to play. After that, it’s up to the players. The desire to do something good for all of us in our lives that will be remembered forever, they have to step forward and say individually, “OK, we’re going to help the team win the game. And we will do it.
Guardiola said a semi-final second leg can be “more difficult” than a final. “You know you are playing with the result of the first leg,” he said. “You play with the mind that you think: ‘final, final final’ and sometimes you can forget what you have to do is win the game you are playing.”
The city manager has lost his last four Champions League semi-finals with Bayern Munich and Barcelona. His side have suffered a lot of European grief ahead of this season, with three successive quarter-final outings including an away loss by a Tottenham side under PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino in 2019.
“I would like to feel that we have learned from our defeats but I don’t know how we will react, it’s still a mystery,” added Guardiola. “The good thing about our lives and our jobs is that sport is unpredictable and it can surprise for good or bad. It was disappointing back then but life always gives you another opportunity, another challenge.
“After the disappointment we had, especially in the quarter-finals against Spurs and Lyon, it’s nice to be here again. I’d love to say we’ve learned from this, but maybe tomorrow we’ll play a bad game. At the same time, what I’m thinking at the moment is that we are going to play an incredible game and reach the final… but if the other team is better, we will congratulate the opponent. We don’t want to miss this opportunity by not being ourselves and I have a feeling we are going to do well.
PSG striker Kylian Mbappé is in doubt about returning to the Etihad Stadium after missing Saturday’s victory over Lens with a thigh injury. “Today he started an individual training session and we’ll see if he can be with the team at the end,” Pochettino said. “There is still a day. We haven’t decided if he’s available or not yet. “
Guardiola, however, was not absorbed in the uncertainty. “Absolutely, he’s going to play,” he said. “I can’t wait for him to play. For the game itself, I hope he can play.
PSG’s best performances in the Champions League this season have returned home with convincing wins at Manchester United, Barcelona and current Bayern in the quarter-finals. But John Stones insists City are bursting with confidence after coming from behind to win in Paris while overpowering Mbappé and Neymar in the second half. The city defender said: “It was a huge boost in confidence. Showing the character and the resilience to come from behind isn’t easy and after the game we felt great pride and self-satisfaction. These kinds of moments are important, especially in the Champions League. We can flourish and integrate them into those next 90 minutes. It was a huge victory.
“I’m very confident in the guys and in their ability, their desire and their belief. We know what we can do and I have no doubts that we can take the next step in our history and write the history of this club.