Guardiola woos fans with a Euro dream
It has become almost an annual event now, a familiar call to arms, but, of all Pep Guardiola's pitches to Manchester City fans to finally embrace the Champions League, this was probably the most passionate.
Having defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in Ukraine a fortnight ago, City face Dinamo Zagreb in their first European home game of the campaign tonight with the manager urging the Etihad Stadium to take the Champions League to their hearts, to make some noise, and set the tone for the season as the domestic treble winners aim to break their duck in the competition.
"We are going to try to seduce our fans and say, 'OK, we can do it'," the City manager said. "The only way to seduce them is winning games and playing good. The people want to win it but without the fans it's impossible to do it alone. All I can do is say to our fans, 'Come to join us and support us'. These guys deserve it, for what they have done in the last two seasons especially. They are outrageous, fantastic, top players - they deserve to feel it [that support]. That they want to win and make a step forward too."
Guardiola must look at Liverpool, City's main title rivals and the European Cup holders, with a degree of envy. On European nights Anfield is a cauldron that can be as intimidating for opposing teams as it is inspiring for Jurgen Klopp's side, but Guardiola would doubtless settle for repeats at the Etihad of the atmosphere during last season's quarter-final, second leg at home to Spurs, if not the result.
He understands the obsession with the Premier League. After decades watching the likes of Liverpool and neighbours Manchester United monopolise the title, it has not taken the polls the club have commissioned to tell Guardiola that City fans would far rather see a third successive championship this term than a first European Cup. The evidence is there for him from week to week and, while at least 48,000 spectators are expected at the Etihad this evening, there were last night still adult tickets on general sale, some for as low as £15.
"I know for the fans it's the Premier League that's most exciting," said Guardiola, who was without Kevin De Bruyne at training yesterday.
"Liverpool and United - with their trophies, they are used to it. We are making steps as a club. I wouldn't want to arrive once in the final then disappear for five years." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb, Live BT Sport 3/ VM Sport, 8.0