Pep Guardiola has asked his Manchester City side not to get caught up in the emotion against Real Madrid in the return leg of their Champions League semi-final. No doubt somewhat inspired by the events of last season, where City were taken to extra time in five minutes of madness, Guardiola asked them to play as they always do.
The Catalan coach was keen to emphasize that while they were pleased with the 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu last week, more would be required at the Etihad to eliminate the 14-time champions.
“We feel very good, the sensations are positive. But to go through we have to play much better than last week. We have to do what we know and what they have been repeating for many years. It’s not just grit and enthusiasm, we have to do it better than at the Bernabeu.”
He would not be drawn into declaring which side were favourites for the match either.
“I don’t know, I’m not capable of saying that. We’re in the knockouts every season and in the end the team that deserves it wins. In my head, it’s doing well and convincing the fans that we don’t have to do anything different.”
“We have the feeling that at home we are more free and that we play more relaxed. If we are ourselves… I have played ten semifinals and lost seven. I know the feeling, but there are many things that cannot be controlled in the world of football.
Guardiola knows Real Madrid arguably as well as any adversary, but even he was unable to say what led to their success in Europe, but did highlight the fact that Los Blancos are in possession of some of the best footballers in the world.
“I don’t know, if I knew I would try to copy the method. But I would say that because they always had very high-level players. When we won it with Barca it was because we had very high-level players.”
While no doubt Real Madrid’s experience at these stages has shown in recent years, it is also true that the likes of Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos are still arguably some of the best in their position on their day, while the likes of Vinicius Junior and Thibaut Courtois can claim to be so these days too. The fact that they and Ancelotti have been around so long, and their struggles to impress over the course of an entire league season, perhaps leads them to be less appreciated. When the big games come around, rarely do they fail to produce.