Guardiola: Man City will be judged by Champions League results

By Sports Desk March 13, 2023

Pep Guardiola admitted his time at Manchester City will be judged on Champions League success, despite remaining in the hunt for three trophies this season.

Five points behind Arsenal in the hunt for the Premier League title, City face Burnley on Saturday in the FA Cup quarter-finals as the push for a potential treble continues.

Before that, City's focus will be on their European campaign, with their last-16 tie with RB Leipzig delicately poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

Last month, Riyad Mahrez's opening goal was cancelled out by Josko Gvardiol's second-half equaliser, leaving everything to play for at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

City stand as the favourites for many to go all the way in the Champions League this season, though they have fallen short in previous campaigns when shouldering such expectations.

While Guardiola has won a plethora of honours during his time with the club, he conceded he will be judged on whether he can deliver long-awaited Champions League glory.

"Yes," he replied when asked if that was the case at the pre-match press conference, "It doesn't mean I agree with that, but absolutely we will be judged by this competition.

"Every team at this stage has a lot of qualities and many strengths. Tomorrow, we have to impose our game and do what we have to do. We have to win the game, so it is easy.

"It is not about how many goals we have to score; it is just to win the game - that is what we have to do."

Though others will look to the Champions League as the be-all and end-all for City, Guardiola outlined the importance of competing in three competitions at this stage of the season.

"It's really important to be alive for the last few months of the season, so you do as much as you can to extend the chance to be in the competitions, to still be in Europe, or in the Premier League, to be close to Arsenal," he said.

"I don't know any team, manager or player who plays in a competition and tries not to win. I've never met anyone like that. Everyone wants to win, there's no exception here."

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    City became the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive titles with their 3-1 win over West Ham on Sunday, pipping Arsenal to the crown by two points.

    Manchester United had previously won three consecutive Premier League seasons, achieving the feat twice under Ferguson (1998-2001 and 2006-2009).

    Guardiola’s side can create more history on Saturday as they aim to clinch unprecedented back-to-back league and FA Cup doubles against the Red Devils.

    Asked if this achievement put Guardiola’s name alongside Ferguson’s as the best Premier League manager, James, who spent two years with City, disagreed.

    "No, Fergie's still the best. Look at statistics and longevity," James told Stats Perform. "And even more so, since Fergie left, what's happened to Manchester United.

    "You can't even blame or use the excuse he had a good team and did well with it, Fergie rode the waves, he was up and down and even these downs weren't particularly bad.

    "I think third or fourth was probably the worst they ever did; Fergie was the best and Pep will have to hang around for another decade, I think, before he can actually challenge that position.

    "But what we're seeing at the moment, you've got a different style of football, a different type of game in so many different ways. The way the league is constructed at the moment with other competitions around it, Pep is having to do different things to what Fergie may have had to do.

    "I know Fergie was a great manager, but not necessarily the greatest coach. Pep is a great manager and a great coach. He's also got an extra string to his bow in that sense.

    "To be the winner of that league four years in a row, you need to be a superb manager. And I think Pep, in this short time frame, is doing some remarkable things, but he's going to have to hang around for a lot longer to take Ferguson's crown."

    Following their victory over West Ham, Guardiola stated that he was "closer to leaving than staying", raising speculation that next season could be his last.

    "I think the big question for Pep, and it is logical that he will now become the focus given that Jurgen Klopp announced his departure a few months ago, and all of a sudden it was nothing, but Jurgen and he will be the next focus," James added.

    "I think the thing for Pep is, what does he want to do as a person? And it's not that he's completed the treble and that's enough because I think that he would want to do a treble treble, you want to do a quadruple.

    "I can see that competitive side in him, he doesn't seem to change on the sidelines. Even yesterday, when they conceded the goal, and it was a fantastic goal from Kudus, he wasn't happy.

    "I think you can still see that he's still animated, still engaged with the game. There's no question that he's feeling tired in that sense.

    "I would like him to stay. I would like him to stay because I think when you've got someone so good, you need someone to beat them legitimately rather than them just step away and allow everyone else to play.

    "I think he should stay. And I'm sure City will do everything they can to keep him in charge for the foreseeable future."

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    "We have to believe in our philosophy, play attacking football and try to beat them. You don't win a trophy if you don't beat the best.

    "We have had a great campaign, and we fully deserve to be here. Both sides deserve to be playing this final. Let's see who will manage to lift the trophy.

    Atalanta narrowly missed out in the Coppa Italia final to Juventus earlier this month, and Gian Piero Gasperini is now preparing to manage his first-ever European final.

    The Italian praised Leverkusen but stressed the belief he has in his own team after an impressive campaign.

    He said: "We are aware that we are facing a great team. We know that they are undefeated, and we know that they have had an amazing season.

    "Our journey, however, was also very good as we beat very strong teams to reach the final, and we also have belief.

    "Leverkusen are a complete team; extremely organised. They are versatile, they can defend and recover the ball well.

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    Leverkusen are chasing the second trophy in a potential treble against Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday, with the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to follow on Saturday.

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    Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager, but he believes his team will draw on the experience they have already gained this season.

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    "From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that's right at the heart of this successful run.

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    Reflecting on his time at Leverkusen, Alonso said: "I was so young in this coach career, so when I was offered the Leverkusen job, so it was 'let's go, let's see what happens'.

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    "I think we have great chemistry.  The mentality we have shown throughout the year has been fantastic. I am really enjoying it."

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