Pep Guardiola expects Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain to be a tougher game than if they made it to the final.
City took control of the tie when they came from behind to win 2-1 at Parc Des Princes Last week. With two away goals they have apparently set one foot in what would be their very first Champions League final. But they can’t afford to think they’re already qualified.
Coming into the game after a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace that put them on the brink of the Premier League title, confidence remains high at the Etihad Stadium. Now, only one obstacle separates them from a place in the final of the biggest competition in Europe.
Asked if this was the most important game he’s been involved with with City, Guardiola replied: “I don’t know.
“This is the first time most of us have been here together. I know why we are playing. In these games you don’t need a lot of emotions – just be calm and know what you have to do. I don’t have to tell anyone, the players, the backstage, the staff, the cooks, everyone knows how important this is.
“We’ve been looking for this moment for many years. We talked a lot yesterday and today about who we are, what we need to do.
“We are not talking about PSG because we are playing against them a week ago. We are just talking about us and us and us and what we need to do.
The result is far from certain, with PSG owning some of the best players in the world. Their performance in the first half of the first leg showed the problems they can cause City.
Guardiola is well aware of this and expects the French champions to pose a threat – but is hopeful his side can counter it.
He said of PSG’s threat against City: “The same dangers in the first leg. The same dangers of Chelsea, Madrid, Bayern, Barcelona.
“We will try to make them dangerous. Just focus on what we need to do, I haven’t said a word about them. They can change shape, their manager is so smart. I don’t know what they’re going to do.
“The urge to reach the final is normal, never been here before, we focus on ourselves to read, stay together in bad times, suffer together.
“We try to impose our game as much as possible. We defend well, be patient and try to score goals. “
As Guardiola focuses on his own side, he is aware of the difficulty of the game. In fact, he claimed that this stage of the competition is more difficult than the final.
Asked what worries him, he replied, “A few small things. At the same time, I am incredibly optimistic. I am calmer than before.
“The players trained well today, yesterday. Everyone wants to help. I take a look, you know the quality of the opponent.
“The semi-final second leg is always the most difficult game, more than the final. We control our emotions to do exactly what we need to do. We are trying to convince the players that this is the best way to win this game. “
Elaborating on his comparison of the two heats, he explained: “In my experience, the semi-finals are always difficult. You play with the result of the first leg, you forget what you have to do which is to win the game.
“It’s always been like that, the final is completely different. It is neither easier nor more difficult but completely different from the second leg. “
Guardiola delighted with defensive options
Guardiola has almost a full roster of players to choose from, but has confirmed that one of his defenders will be absent.
He said: “Eric Garcia is only one, he had a fever and couldn’t make it to the Palace and is still not ready. The rest is fine.
In Garcia’s absence, Guardiola still has plenty of options to choose from at the back. Ruben Dias has made a significant impression this season, while John Stones has improved and Aymeric Laporte remains a strong option. They also have Nathan Ake, who hasn’t seen too much playing time.
The boss of the city has faith in all his options in this position.
Asked about the premier pairing between Dias and Stones, he said: “They are comfortable together. The level that Aymer expresses in the last few games he plays, he was always perfect with John or Ruben.
“Last game, Nathan was exceptional. Eric you know my opinion, he never does a bad performance. They are good, communicate well, help each other, talk a lot, they are comfortable.
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Defenders could be tasked with arresting Kylian Mbappe, although PSG’s talent was seen limping at the airport on Monday.
Guardiola, however, is hoping the 2018 World Cup winner will play.
He said, “Absolutely, I can’t wait to be there. He’s going to play.
“I can’t wait for him to play. For football, for the game itself, I hope he can play.
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