Champions League: Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City aim to advance in the ‘more open’ competition

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on the importance of winning the Champions League

Manchester City aim to take another step on Tuesday towards the only title that has eluded them: the Champions League.

Boss Pep Guardiola says he will be judged on his success in the competition, but does this year represent his best chance to become European champion?

“There is no outstanding team” in this season’s tournament, says pundit Chris Sutton, while football journalist Rory Smith feels the competition “isn’t as daunting” as in years past.

Second in the Premier League, City will secure a place in the quarterfinals if they win their round of 16 second leg at home to RB Leipzig after a 1-1 draw in Germany.

Bayern Munich, Chelsea, AC Milan and Benfica are the teams that have already qualified, while Real Madrid have a 5-2 lead over Liverpool, with Italians Napoli and Inter Milan leading after their first legs against Eintracht. Frankfurt and Porto respectively.

Of the teams remaining in the competition, only Bayern, Napoli and Benfica are at the top of their domestic leagues.


Riyad Mahrez gave Manchester City a 27th-minute lead in the first leg against RB Leipzig before the German team equalized through Josko Gvardiol’s 70th-minute header.

“If you knew who you would favorite for the Champions League, wouldn’t we all say Napoli right now?

“But I don’t think we’ve seen Manchester City at their best, that could be sinister, and they find ways to win.”

“It’s as open as ever and there isn’t a really outstanding team where in previous seasons you could argue differently.”

Smith of the New York Times added: “It seems the field is a bit more open and a bit unfamiliar, and to be honest, all the better for it.

Real, City and Bayern are the three established powers and seeing how the field is falling we will be thinking that they are the three outstanding teams.

“City should probably be favorites and they’ll think ‘Barcelona aren’t there, Liverpool aren’t there, Arsenal, the in-form team in the Premier League, weren’t in the competition, it’s not as daunting as it normally would be.

“The city should be thinking ‘this is a very good opportunity to correct the mistakes of the last six years.'”

I will be judged by my Champions League record – Guardiola

City have won nine major trophies since Guardiola took over in 2016 but have never been European champions and were asked if their spell would be defined by success in Europe’s premier cup competition.

“It doesn’t mean I agree with it, but absolutely I will be judged on it,” said the 52-year-old Spaniard.

“Before my first game in the Champions League (with City), people said I was here to win it.

“I said that?’ I don’t know, but I accept it. No matter how much happens, it’s not going to change.”

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Manchester City reached the Champions League final under Pep Guardiola in 2021, but were beaten by Premier League rivals Chelsea.

The closest they have come to Champions League glory was when they reached the 2021 final, where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea.

A late comeback by Real Madrid prevented City from reaching the final again last season, but in Guardiola’s first four seasons at the Etihad Stadium he failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals.

City were beaten by French teams Monaco and Lyon, while suffering agonizing outings against Premier League rivals Liverpool and Tottenham, the latter after VAR played a role in the outcome of a thrilling second leg in the Etihad.

“We haven’t won it, but we’ve done very well in the Champions League,” City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne said.

“I know people base everything on just winning, but I feel like there have been a lot of circumstances in these kinds of games: the Madrid game, the Tottenham game where we deserved to go through but didn’t. These are moments in games where these things happen. .

“Obviously I want to win it, but I know as long as we don’t, I’m going to come here and get the same questions and I’m okay because people judge you for that.”

“We just try to win these games and be the best people and the best team that we can be.”

Guardiola tells De Bruyne to focus on the “simple things”

De Bruyne has registered 17 assists in 34 appearances this season, three more than the two-time Premier League player of the season managed in 45 games last season.

But Guardiola has started the Belgian midfielder on the bench in four of City’s last nine top flight games and has told the 31-year-old to focus on the “simple things” to return to his best.

“It’s been a difficult season for all of us, including me, (because of) the World Cup and many things,” Guardiola said.

“I’m not going to find Kevin. Kevin has the ability to do it. What I would like, I talked to him many times, is (for him) to go to the easy principles and do it well.”

“He has an incredible ability to give an assist, score goals and see passes like nobody else, but I always have the belief that they will increase and improve when (players do) the simple things …

“When the simple things are done perfectly and we’re at the right time, the actions to create incredible passes that he, only he, can find, it will be easier, it will be better.”


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