Band Luke Edwards
As questions arose, Pep Guardiola remained polite, although he had heard most of them before.
Wednesday night, he embarks on his sixth attempt to win the Champions League for Manchester City. He was asked variations of the same questions every September, October, November and December. There was the usual range of questioning looks as he listened, the occasional rubbing of his head and face as if to keep alert, and a head-in-hands moment where he again had to deny saying he was definitely going to leave. City in 2023. Reaching the final in May didn’t change the story much as the ambition to win the most prestigious competition in European football did not materialize.
The expectation remains the same, so inevitably the questions posed to the manager and the player before launching their last European campaign continue to be asked.
For Spanish midfielder Rodri – Does the club have to win the Champions League to be considered an elite club? Do you have any unfinished business in this competition after being so tight last season? Will Jack Grealish help you take the next step (win the final) maybe?
He was also asked other things, including how long it took him to recover from the devastation of the loss to Chelsea. He had “three days, when he couldn’t tell his family and friends about it,” which seemed fair enough. His other answers can be condensed: “Winning the Champions League is in our heads … It’s a dream for us, but it is not mandatory.”
“Jack doesn’t have a lot of European experience, but everyone can see his quality and he has played a lot of international football …”
“I would sign right away if that meant we were going to go into another final… but we have to go step by step, starting against Leipzig and then coming out of the squad.”
City have a tougher squad this year. Leipzig may have sold most of the key players that led them to the semi-finals in 2020, but they knocked out Manchester United in the group stage last year before falling to Liverpool in the round of 16. And with Paris St-Germain, who most people would consider – along with City – to be the favorites to be crowned champions next May, also in Group A, as well as in Bruges, it won’t be easy to qualify for the round of 16. City have achieved this every season since Guardiola’s arrival in 2016, reaching the round of 16 in their first season, the quarter-finals three years in a row, and then a first final last time around.
He was asked if his side are better prepared to win after reaching this final and if his desire is as great now as it was when he started at Barcelona. There was also a good question as to whether teams have to weather the adversity of losing games like those against Lyon (2020 quarter-final) and Chelsea to win the big prizes. He said they probably did, while pointing out that they had a good run last year: “Thirteen games, won 11, draw and lost one” but “people always say it’s a failure, therefore we have the desire to do better. “
He made sure to point out that this was the start of a new competition and that they “would try to win the first game”, that “the group stages are tough” so they “have to fight and prove they deserve to be in the next steps. ”He was told that people still say, after five years of winning domestic trophies, that he has to win the Champions League for his time at City to truly be. considered a success. Guardiola smiled and shrugged. “I accept that, every year is the same,” he said. “If I win the Champions League, I will be happy for the club. Otherwise, we are not going to do it that way … then you can judge whether my career is a success or not.
“I don’t know, I can’t answer that question. Every day I try to do my best and people can judge my work by how I judge my players and how amazing they’ve been over the past four or five years.
Here we go again. First of all, Leipzig.
Team details (probable)
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Grealish.
RB Leipzig (4-2-3-1): Gulacsi; Gvardiol, Simakin, Orban, Mukiele; Kampl, Laimer; Nkunku, Olmo, Szoboszlai; Silva.