City mean business! Pep Guardiola is primed to end last-eight curse
Manchester City mean business! Pep Guardiola is primed to end the club’s Champions League quarter-final curse by getting past Borussia Dortmund… as Ilkay Gundogan admits he has ‘expectations’ in Europe this season
- Manchester City take a 2-1 lead into second leg of their Champions League tie
- Premier League leaders defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at the Etihad last week
- They’ve never entered a Champions League quarter-final second leg with a lead
- Now they must use the opportunity to ‘prove’ themselves, admits Pep Guardiola
Manchester City have found every which way to fall at this hurdle under Pep Guardiola.
They clipped it with a trailing leg against Tottenham, and clattered a front foot straight into it against Liverpool and Lyon. The end result was always the same.
So, this is it for City and Guardiola.
Manager Pep Guardiola is primed to end Manchester City’s last-eight curse against Dortmund
Never before have they headed into a Champions League quarter-final second leg with a lead and now they must take advantage.
They will need clear heads and strong minds against a potent Borussia Dortmund attack who fully expect to score on Wednesday.
‘I have expectations for us,’ said City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. ‘I know we are capable of reaching the semi-finals. We should have been there before but we lacked something.
Ilkay Gundogan says City are ‘capable’ of making the semi-finals and that he has ‘expectations’
Phil Foden scored the winner against Dortmund last week and could be key on Wednesday
‘People sometimes made unnecessary individual mistakes. I feel like we are much more stable at the moment, especially defensively.’
WHAT CITY MUST DO TO GO THROUGH
By Chris Sutton
Stop Erling Haaland and, in all likelihood, you stop Borussia Dortmund from inflicting another quarter-final exit on Pep Guardiola as City manager. Jadon Sancho’s absence is good news for City because he and Haaland have a great connection. One assists and the other scores. Dortmund will create opportunities, there is no doubt about that, but City’s defence have to limit Haaland’s involvement. Ruben Dias’s presence stopped him from striking in the first leg at the Etihad. Time for round two.
City must overcome the psychological barrier they have with this stage of Europe’s elite competition. Don’t do something silly like play a back three to defend your way into the semi-finals. Doing that backfired badly when Lyon shocked City 3-1 last year. Go to Germany with swagger and belief that you can and will score. Dortmund’s defence is nothing to brag about. Exploit it!
GET SELECTION RIGHT
Fantasy Football fans out there will tell you Guardiola’s line-ups are not easy to guess, but this is a selection he must nail.
I expect Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez will return, and Guardiola could even use Kevin De Bruyne as a false nine. You never know with him.
Gundogan spoke candidly on Tuesday, explaining that setbacks in previous campaigns — be it conceding a shock goal or suffering a baffling refereeing decision — were too tough to handle for a group of players unfamiliar with adversity.
‘We need to learn that it is normal to struggle,’ he said. ‘We failed in the past years but we know that a team of our quality will have the chance.’
The German, going back to his old club for the first time, believes City must attack because ‘defending results does not fit us’.
It seems City will attempt to outgun their hosts, who boast the in-form Erling Haaland up front.
Guardiola will be buoyed by the response to Dortmund’s equaliser at the Etihad Stadium last week. Marco Reus struck with six minutes left but City charged on — the dazzling Phil Foden scoring what they hope will prove a vital stoppage-time winner.
However, there is one statistic that will not lift the inherent pessimism within the club’s fanbase and demonstrates that success on Wednesday is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Of the 27 teams to win a Champions League first leg at home 2-1, only 12 have progressed. This task requires unwavering focus from Guardiola’s men.
‘We know we have to do what we’ve done all season,’ said the City manager.
‘If we want to win we have to deserve it, we have to go for it. Of course, you have to control your emotions but sometimes you need emotions in a good way to win this type of game.
‘Each one has to try to be a leader on the pitch and when a guy feels comfortable during the game, take responsibility to be more involved.
‘For the guys who are more nervous or quiet — do your job, play simple, be calm.
‘We know they have weapons to score a goal but we have the weapons to score a goal, too. We are not going to defend anything we won at home.’
Guardiola has rested key men in preparation, making seven changes for Saturday’s defeat by Leeds, while Dortmund fret over fitness after going full-strength at Stuttgart in their battle to make the top four in the Bundesliga.
Guardiola says his Manchester City side are eager to ‘prove’ themselves on the European stage
Reus and Mats Hummels, the experienced pair who played alongside Gundogan in the 2013 final at Wembley, are still being assessed. Jadon Sancho remains unavailable.
‘We have another chance, an opportunity,’ added Guardiola.
‘The players want to do it again because they were sad when we were not able to go to the semi-finals before and this is an opportunity to prove ourselves. Nobody’s going to give it to us.
‘Business is business and the business is to win. If we win, it’ll be ‘How good is Pep!’ If we don’t win, I’ll be a failure.’
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