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City on a revenge mission in Europe

Guardiola insists victory in Champions League would be for club and players, not for him


Manchester United manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Manchester United manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

After Uefa tried to ban them from their competitions, it is easy to see why Pep Guardiola believes winning the Champions League is more important to Manchester City as a club than their manager and players.

Guardiola says it matters little to his own CV whether they win three knockout games in Lisbon or not, that his time at the Etihad Stadium will not be defined by one competition played in a unique format after the coronavirus pandemic made it more a World Cup of club football.

But it will mean something more to the club's Abu Dhabi owners and executives to be crowned European champions within 12 seasons of taking control of the club. They have won the Premier League but being victorious at Estadio da Luz on August 23 would take them to a different level.

"The big clubs lift the [big] titles," Guardiola said. "To reach the quarter-finals is good because we knocked out Real Madrid, who won three Champions Leagues in a row. Which team can do that? These types of teams.

"It makes us aware that we can do it but we will see.

"We have won the Premier League and we have won other domestic titles but we know to win this kind of competition is important for the club. Not for the manager or players, but for the club itself and for the supporters to say, 'OK, we have done it and we are -doing well'."

It could be seen as fitting should City win, given Uefa's attempts to have them banned from their competitions for two seasons over allegations that they broke financial fair play rules.

City complained in their appeal that they were treated differently to other teams by Uefa after disrupting the European elite order over the past decade.

"This seems to be less about justice and more about politics," was a standout line from Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, when discussing the case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in City's favour, of course, although they were fined €10 million for obstructing the investigation.

There is an added twist of this being David Silva's last season before leaving City after his glittering career, while Bernardo Silva will be playing in his hometown.

While Guardiola says to the contrary, it is about him to a degree. His last Champions League win was nine years ago with a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona team.

He was beaten in the quarter-final stage by Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the past two seasons and reached the last 16 before that, when his team were defeated by Monaco. Victory against Real Madrid last Friday means they face Lyon on Saturday - attempting to reach the semi-finals for the second time in the club's history. After the second leg, Guardiola argued it was no easier than other years when asked whether the change of format made it City's best chance of winning the competition.

"It's important [the Madrid win]. Against Monaco and Tottenham we were out on away goals, so that was a fine margin to go through. This competition is like this. Not many mistakes and be solid," he said.

"It's not about me. David Silva deserves it more than anyone else. Sergio [Aguero] as well. Nico [Otamendi] was in the locker room supporting his team-mates and he played the last 10 minutes. Fernandinho? He wants the same level.

"I would love to win it. I loved winning it with Barcelona. I would have loved to have won it with Bayern Munich and we reached three semi-finals and we could not win it. But my memories of Bayern Munich are still incredible - and nothing is going to change."

Guardiola has less than a year left on his contract and says that the outcome of his team's trip to Portugal will not affect his satisfaction over the achievements at the Etihad in his years at the club.

"I live in Manchester and work at an incredible club and that will by memories - the group of players I have had for four or five years," he said. "The backroom staff I have - this is my happiness working here.

"I do everything to win the Carabao Cup, everything. Imagine if we don't do everything try to win the Champions League so, of course, we are going to try. Like last season, like for different times when we were out - this competition is so difficult there are so many good teams. But we are going to try.

"But if I left right now, after being here, if we don't win the Champions League, I won't see it as a disaster. What I leave and what I know I will leave will be great, awesome.

"It's not about winning titles - it's about relationships with the English people I have met here. I have met incredible people. This is my life. Part of me is a manager but I am a human being.

"And I am a person. I live with them, eat with them, eat dinner with them and we laugh and share bad moments together. This is my life.

"And it's going to change those relations because we don't win the Champions League? Honestly, No!"