Monday 26 June 2017

Guardiola: City will be 'killed' if we do not win

Pep Guardiola has a word with his players during training ahead of tonight’s game against Monaco. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters
Pep Guardiola has a word with his players during training ahead of tonight’s game against Monaco. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Chris Bascombe

Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City that the football world is waiting to 'kill them' unless they neutralise the threat of Monaco's striking assassins in the Champions League.

There was a scent of blood in the air at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the last-16 tie as Guardiola seeks to preserve his extraordinary record of reaching the semi-finals of this competition every time he has coached in it.

City's manager recognised the cold-bloodedness of Monaco's prolific attackers and warned City of a scathing rebuke if they fail to reach the quarter-finals.

But, in what has become a frequent message, Guardiola urged City to embrace the Champions League and set about establishing a European pedigree to match their rivals.

"All of Europe is going to watch us, to analyse us, to kill us if we don't win, to say how good we are when we win - and that experience is beautiful to me," said Guardiola.

"It is not easy to be here. I said many times, in the Champions League the recent history is quite good but Manchester City were not there for a long time. I want the players to enjoy this moment - because it's beautiful.

"People can think, 'Okay, it's Man City, it's English football, the most prestigious football, the most media, the most advertising, and you have to be here'. But a lot of clubs, big clubs, are not here. We have to see that we are lucky guys.

"I always played this competition this way, even at Barcelona and Bayern where they had more experience of the competition. I still thought 'Wow'."

Guardiola issued a similar appeal for City to fall in love with the competition earlier this season. Yet tickets were still for sale on the eve of this tie - another sign of the lingering ill-will many of the fans direct at Europe's governing body after City were sanctioned under Financial Fair Play rules in 2014, and reflective of general ambivalence whenever the Uefa billboards are erected.

Both Guardiola and Kevin de Bruyne sounded like they were on a heritage trail, eager for City to stir their fan base with memories similar to the run to last year's semi-final, or this season's thrilling win over Barcelona.

"They compare us to teams like Man United and Liverpool with the history they have," said De Bruyne. "We didn't have the time they had already for doing what they did in the Champions League. They were playing there for multiple years and we've been there only five or six years.

"Last year was a great step for the team. This team is building on that. We need time to do that year after year. It is very important for people who look at us and evaluate us and criticise us to see we are going in the right direction.

Different

"As players we don't really think about that but for people who have to write about us or say things about us it is very different because we have not been here for a long time.

"The club took a different direction with the ownership and we are trying to go in that direction, but it is not going to be until we are two times in the semi-final that people will say that we do the same things like the best teams in Europe.

"That is why people are talking a bit less about Man City than the other teams."

If Monaco seemed a generous draw before Christmas, few consider that the case now. Within Europe's biggest five leagues, only Barcelona have scored more goals than the French side this season, Leonardo Jardim's side having struck 108 times so far. Guardiola admires and is wary of the threat.

"It is a tough draw," he said. "As a spectator, it is so nice to see them. I am really impressed how good they are, physically strong, the full-backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders.

"Their strikers (Radamel) Falcao and (Valere) Germain - they are killers in the box. Both holding midfielders - (Bernardo) Silva and (Tiemoue) Bakayoko - are intelligent, physically strong and they arrive to the box. They are a complete team."

Guardiola has ruled captain Vincent Kompany out tonight's game but confirmed that the injury-prone defender could be in line to return for the FA Cup replay against Huddersfield Town next week.

Yet for all the domestic success many expect from Guardiola - and the legacy he will surely leave behind no matter how long he is in England - the Spaniard was appointed to navigate City to places in Europe that were beyond the reach of Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini.

"We are a club with a short history in the Champions League, maybe it is the fifth time we play in the last 16," said Guardiola. "Monaco plays in the biggest stages more than us. We are here to see where is our level - we are improving."

Manchester City v Monaco,

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Irish Independent

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