‘I’m not overthinking’: Guardiola gears up for City’s duel with Real Madrid | Champions League

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‘I’m not overthinking’: Guardiola gears up for City’s duel with Real Madrid | Champions League

Champions League

  • Champions League semi-final tie finely poised at 1-1
  • ‘My legacy is already exceptional,’ says City manager

Pep Guardiola has promised he will not overthink Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid on Wednesday. The manager said his legacy is already exceptional and will not be defined by whether he wins the competition with the club.

The tie is poised at 1-1 after the opening leg at Santiago Bernabéu last week. Guardiola has been viewed as causing City’s defeat in previous editions of the Champions League by overcomplicating selection and tactics. The most prominent example was the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea in the 2021 final when he dropped Rodri and João Cancelo, did not play a regular holding player and reinstated the out-of-favour Raheem Sterling.

Guardiola believes City have to perform better than they did against Real in Spain but was reluctant to reveal how he will accomplish this. “Hopefully you can see tomorrow,” he said. “Nothing special. I’m not overthinking, don’t worry guys, nothing different to what we’ve done, just more fluid and play a bit better.

“The emotion is there and has to be high, but just this won’t beat a team like Madrid. We have to adjust something, do it a little better to create chances for our strikers and people up front to get more balls, transitions, the quality they have in all departments.”

In six previous attempts, Guardiola has failed to lead City to the trophy, though his tenure is supremely successful. The champions require a maximum of one Premier League win for a hat-trick of titles and the fifth under Guardiola, who has also claimed the FA Cup and four League Cups. As City are in next month’s FA Cup final they remain on course for the treble. Guardiola referred to his record when asked whether the Champions League was needed to firm up his legacy.

“The legacy is that we’ve had (one hell of a time) here and for many years they will remember a generation of players who for five or six years scored lots of goals and conceded very few and that we won lots of things and won very well and people should remember that,” he said. “Whether or not they will remember us or not I don’t know, but we have had a good time.

“My legacy is already exceptional. We are not stupid to know how important it is (the Real match): one of the most important, the competition, the rival. I’ve told the players to enjoy the moment. We are incredibly lucky to be here, it’s in our hands.”

Guardiola, who has only Nathan Aké injured, said he would take a repeat of last year’s 4-3 victory over Real in the opening leg of the semi-final. “We’d like to have the game we had last season – I’d sign for it right now,” he said. “But I don’t think it will happen. Sometimes the game dictates (its pattern): how you lose the ball, the ball in certain moments, how you react.

“This competition has a lot of uncertain things; we will see. I’ve a plan, we’ll try to execute it and try to adapt to what they do.”

Carlo Ancelotti, who guided Real to their 14th triumph in the competition last season, said he would have mixed emotions before the match. “Today I’m very calm, full of hope and faith. Tomorrow – game day – that’s when the worries come in and you think things through. Whether (Erling) Haaland will score, if Kevin De Bruyne will hurt you, but you try to put it out of my mind.

“It’s all about managing thoughts. We are very happy to be here, we are feeling good – enjoy it while we can. The (difficult) thoughts can come tomorrow. We will need bravery, courage – this is vital in games like this. Individual quality can’t show if you aren’t brave enough to try stuff.”

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