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.

Related items

  • Manchester City thriving under ‘dead or alive’ title pressure – Pep Guardiola Manchester City thriving under ‘dead or alive’ title pressure – Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City players are thriving under the pressure of the title run-in.

    City enjoyed an outstanding weekend in their quest for a fourth successive Premier League crown as an emphatic victory over Luton, coupled with defeats for rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, put them top of the table.

    Guardiola’s side are now not only clear favourites to retain their title but in a strong position to secure an unprecedented second treble in succession.

    “They like to play the pressure,” said City manager Guardiola, speaking after Saturday’s 5-1 hammering of the Hatters. “They like it when you are dead or alive.

    “That doesn’t mean we are going to do it but I am pretty sure we will be there until the end because I know them, I see their faces in the meetings before games and how they prepare.

    “That means we’ll be Premier League champions? No, no. I am not saying that. But we will compete, that is for sure.”

    City now head into two decisive knockout games against Real Madrid in the Champions League and Chelsea in the FA Cup over the coming week in good heart.

    Real are the first up at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday for the second leg of a quarter-final tie that is evenly poised at 3-3 after a pulsating game in the Spanish capital last week.

    Full-back Kyle Walker, who has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury sustained on international duty last month, could return after being an unused substitute against Luton.

    Guardiola said: “He feels much better but he was injured, so now we will see in the next days. But he is good, he feels good.

    “Maybe he can help with minutes because it is a ‘final’ but I don’t want to lose him for a long time if he gets injured. He will train a bit more now and we will decide.

    “I know how important Kyle is against the players from Real Madrid but he was not in Madrid and Manu (Akanji), Josko (Gvardiol), John (Stones) and Ruben (Dias) played incredibly well. We will see.”

    Fellow defender Stones should be fit despite being left out of the squad altogether on Saturday as a precaution.

    Guardiola said: “He had some problems, some niggles, but he’s fine.

    “He is not injured but he felt uncomfortable and we didn’t want to take risks. That is all.”

  • Roma match abandoned after Evan Ndicka collapses against Udinese Roma match abandoned after Evan Ndicka collapses against Udinese

    Sunday’s Serie A clash between Udinese and Roma was abandoned after Ivory Coast international Evan Ndicka collapsed on the pitch.

    The 24-year-old Roma defender went down off the ball with 72 minutes played at the Bluenergy Stadium and was carried off on a stretcher after treatment.

    His club later confirmed that the former Auxerre and Eintracht Frankfurt player was conscious and had been taken to hospital for checks.

    A statement on Roma’s official X – formerly Twitter – account read: “Following the on-field medical emergency involving Evan Ndicka, the match between Udinese and Roma has been suspended.

    “The player is conscious and has been taken to hospital for further checks. Forza Evan, we are all with you!”

    Udinese tweeted simply: “We are with you, Ndicka.”

    Roberto Pereyra had given the home side the lead before the break, but Romelu Lukaku made it 1-1 with 64 minutes gone.

  • Mikel Arteta tells Arsenal to ‘stand up and be counted’ after Aston Villa blow Mikel Arteta tells Arsenal to ‘stand up and be counted’ after Aston Villa blow

    Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players to “stand up and be counted” after their Premier League title bid took a hit with defeat to Aston Villa.

    Two late goals gave Unai Emery and his players a deserved 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium to boost their own top-four hopes.

    In yet another twist in the title run-in, the Gunners were well beaten as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins struck within three minutes of one another to stun the home fans.

    Liverpool had lost at home to Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday and a fifth league defeat of the campaign for Arsenal leaves Mikel Arteta’s side in second – two points behind reigning champions Manchester City.

    Asked if he was concerned Arsenal’s season could fizzle out – much as it did last season – from this point, Arteta’s reply was bullish.

    “If one result is going to do that then we are not strong enough,” said the Spaniard, whose side had been unbeaten in the league in 2024 .

    “That’s very simple. We had one of the best performances that we’ve had all season in the first half against a really good team. It should have been three or four (goals) or more. It didn’t happen. In the second half the momentum shifted.

    “We could not control and generate what we did in the first half. We conceded two very poor goals and we lost the game.

    “Congratulate the opponent and stand up. Now the moment is to stand up and be counted. When you win and win and win for four months it’s very simple to do it. The moment to do it is now.”

    Villa were brilliant in a second half they dominated and their superiority eventually paid off as substitute Bailey tapped home at the back post before Watkins took advantage of Arsenal’s high line to burst through on goal and finish with aplomb.

    The visitors had also hit the woodwork through both Watkins and Youri Tielemans and Arsenal must now recover ahead of the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, with the tie evenly-poised at 2-2.

    “If you want to win championships, if you want to be there in the Champions League, when you have these moments you have to stand up,” added Arteta.

    “If not that means that you don’t have a quality that is very necessary. Now it’s a big test for us.

    “In any other league in the world if you won the number of games in a row that we did, you would be six or eight points clear. That is not the case here. That is the challenge.”

    This was former Arsenal boss Emery’s first trip to the Emirates Stadium with his Villa side – who moved three points clear of Tottenham to strengthen their hold on fourth place in the quest for Champions League football.

    “Of course, beating Arsenal here is very difficult and we needed to play and be focused 100 per cent and be very demanding in everything,” he said.

    “We needed the biggest commitment to do better than we did against Manchester City (a 4-1 loss) that was the sample we used for this match.

    “This is the level I want to get to with our players and progressively, we are getting better.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.