Pep Guardiola embraces Manchester City-Real Madrid Champions League ‘tradition’

By Sports Desk March 15, 2024

Pep Guardiola is relishing another clash with Real Madrid after Manchester City were pitted against the Spanish giants for a third successive year.

Champions League holders City will take on the competition’s record 14-time winners in the quarter-finals of this season’s competition next month.

The two clubs have met in the semi-finals for the past two years, with Real winning in 2022 but City avenging that loss – wrapped up with a 4-0 win at the Etihad Stadium – last term.

“It looks like a little bit of a tradition, three years in a row playing the kings of the competition,” said City manager Guardiola following Friday’s draw.

“Hopefully we can arrive in a good moment but there are still a few weeks before the first game in Madrid.

“When people say draws are easy, you undermine the other opponent but it’s not necessary to say what Real Madrid are in this competition. When you play the latter stages you play against the best teams in Europe and Real Madrid are totally there.

“But all the opponents are really tough, everybody knows it. We were excited before the draw because it’s a privilege every time we are here. It is a special competition.”

City’s immediate priority is Saturday’s home FA Cup quarter-final tie against Newcastle.

It will be the fourth time the two clubs have faced each other this season, with City edging both Premier League meetings but the Magpies prevailing in the Carabao Cup.

Guardiola said: “This season and the previous one, and the previous one – since Eddie Howe was there and the people from Saudi Arabia took over – they have always been tight games.

“I don’t expect differently but we have an incredible chance at home with our people. From now on, until the end of the season, we need at every home game the support of our fans like we had against (Manchester) United.

“I can’t remember an environment like that for a long time and we need that tomorrow.”

City will be without key players Kevin De Bruyne and Ederson but Jack Grealish is back in contention after missing six of the last seven games with groin trouble.

“He’s getting better,” Guardiola said. “He’s in the group.”

De Bruyne was this week left out of the Belgium squad after it emerged he carried a groin injury into last week’s draw at Liverpool.

“He’s not ready,” Guardiola said. “He played at Anfield with some problems but he’s getting better.

“He’s not ready for tomorrow and we spoke with the Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco and he decided not to go. I’m grateful because he didn’t feel good.

“He can recover for the last part of the season. All the players today in modern football are not clean, always they have problems. It’s better to take a step back.”

Goalkeeper Ederson, who suffered a thigh injury as he fouled Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez to concede a penalty, should also return after the international break. Stefan Ortega will deputise this weekend.

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    It means it is effectively no longer in Oxford’s hands to reach the League One play-offs because Lincoln are three points behind them with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.

    Buckingham felt the decision not to award the U’s a penalty when Marcus Browne appeared to have been fouled by keeper Craig MacGillivray in the first half was crucial.

    They had to come from behind as Stevenage went in front through a Sam Long own goal in the 32nd minute, Cameron Brannagan replying from the penalty spot on 58 minutes when Carl Piergianni fouled Ruben Rodrigues – though that appeared to have been outside the box.

    Buckingham said: “To play three games in six days is a big ask.

    “We had 26 shots but couldn’t get that second goal we needed.

    “There was a clear penalty not given in the first half, and for us that’s the second game in a row that one hasn’t been given when it should have been. It was a huge moment in the game, and very frustrating.

    “The referee told me he couldn’t see it, but the linesman was only 15 yards away and had a clear view.

    “I’m delighted with the performance but ultimately we’ve got just the four points from these three home games, now we need to make sure we prepare right and get three in the last one at Exeter.

    “When we looked to rearrange the Lincoln game we chose this week because it was a free week, then Sky told us they wanted to bring this Stevenage one forward and show it on the Friday night which meant three games in six days.

    “There was nothing we could do about it, but had we known they were going to do that, we would have played the Lincoln game another week.

    “It’s going to be a tight finish – I wouldn’t rule out Blackpool either, and they’ve got to play Barnsley.”

    Stevenage had lost manager Steve Evans in the week, with Evans heading north to become Rotherham boss.

    Caretaker boss Alex Revell said: “Steve always had two clubs very much in his heart – this one and Rotherham. Believe me, making the decision was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, he said.

    “I wanted to take today and make the players ready. I really enjoyed it because they gave everything.

    “I’m very proud of what the lads did tonight.

    “We had a great day yesterday in terms of training and getting ready and trying to get a few bits into them.

    “They came to a really tough place and worked so hard for each other.

    “In spells we created some half-chances, probably not enough, but it was about showing our togetherness as a club and our spirit.

    “I think we showed why we have caused teams problems this season, especially with our energy and our workrate.

    “The first penalty shout against us was a penalty and should have been given so we got away with that.

    “But it doesn’t mean that something that started outside the box should be a penalty. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

  • Mauricio Pochettino not expecting a vulnerable Man City in FA Cup semi-final Mauricio Pochettino not expecting a vulnerable Man City in FA Cup semi-final

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    Chelsea will return to the scene of their Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool in February, after which they were heavily criticised for failing to overcome a Reds team decimated by injury.

    Jurgen Klopp’s side triumphed in extra time despite finishing the game with four highly inexperienced academy graduates aged 21 or under on the pitch.

    And Pochettino insisted there will be no easy ride for his players as City lick their European wounds.

    “The good example is Liverpool,” he said. “People were talking about too many injured players, how many young kids they had playing. Look what happened after.

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    Pochettino will have Enzo Fernandez available for selection after he missed Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton.

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    “We are not looking for heroes,” said Pochettino.

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    The City manager has also revealed the 21-year-old England midfielder had been trying to leave the Etihad Stadium for two years prior to his £42.5million switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

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    City’s hopes of winning a second successive treble were dashed on Wednesday as they suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

    Their focus is now on defending the domestic double, a feat no side has previously achieved, but Guardiola prefers not to view the targets in those terms.

    Guardiola said: “We were close again (to the treble) but it didn’t happen.

    “So my advice about trebles or doubles or these things is, why are we not focused on Chelsea? It’s enough of a target to think about.

    “When you have one or two games left to the end of the Premier League and you are already in the FA Cup final, I can answer you perfectly.

    “We’ve felt, two times, how strong Chelsea are. They are really, really difficult.

    “So, win that game and see what happens the next three, four, five games in the Premier League and after we will see.”

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