Man City have to be more clinical to win Champions League, says Guardiola

By Sports Desk October 21, 2019

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to be more clinical in the final third if they want to win the Champions League.

Glory in Europe's premier club competition has proved frustratingly elusive for big-spending City and the pressure on Guardiola to win the Champions League trophy is high.

The Premier League outfit have made a bright start to this year's competition, winning both Group C matches without conceding but, speaking ahead of a home fixture against Atalanta on Tuesday, Guardiola has acknowledged his side need to improve.

"I'm very confident – I have full trust in my team but there's a lot of strong teams [in the Champions League]," he told reporters.

"The Champions League will be won in the [penalty] box and so far we've not been very strong in the box.

"We've made mistakes we shouldn't make at this level, for example in the match against Watford, we created a lot of opportunities but scored very little. This is what I'm thinking.

"We're good at defending and we need to score at the right moment."

Guardiola repeatedly referred to City's profligacy throughout a pre-match news conference, adding: "In this competition, you have to be strong in the boxes and this season we're not incredibly strong in the boxes.

"Tomorrow we have the chance to improve. We need six more points to qualify."

Guardiola, who also mentioned his side will not have "20 chances" to win games in the Champions League, is expecting an entertaining match against Atalanta, the highest scorers in Serie A this season.

"It's a great joy to watch [Gian Piero] Gasperini's team play, they're brave...they take quite a few risks."

City defender Joao Cancelo was part of a makeshift back four on Saturday as Guardiola's team, playing without a recognised centre-back, won 2-0 at Crystal Palace.

The 25-year-old – an off-season arrival from Juventus – is aware of the threat that Atalanta can provide, even if they have failed to get a point in their two Group C fixtures.

"Atalanta are a strong team, a physical team and they press very well," he said.

"They have players that are technically skilled."

On City's new-look defence, Cancelo added: "It's true that in the last match we didn't have any central defenders but Rodri and Fernandinho are two extraordinary players."

Guardiola could choose to start John Stones against the Italian side, the centre-back featuring off the bench at Selhurst Park.

The manager also confirmed that defenders Nicolas Otamendi and Kyle Walker are on the comeback trail and that both trained on Sunday.

Related items

  • Southgate right to drop Sterling, says Neville Southgate right to drop Sterling, says Neville

    Gareth Southgate made the right decision to drop Raheem Sterling over the incident with England team-mate Joe Gomez, according to Gary Neville.

    Manchester City star Sterling is said to have been involved in a bust-up with Liverpool's Gomez in a private team area at St George's Park.

    The pair had also been in an altercation during Liverpool's 3-1 Premier League defeat of City at Anfield on Sunday, a result that means the Reds sit nine points clear of the reigning champions.

    Sterling – who was dropped from the England squad for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifying match with Montenegro, the Three Lions' 1,000th international game – accepted his emotions got the better of him but insisted he and Gomez had quickly moved on.

    In a statement on Monday, Southgate said the emotions of the Anfield match "were still raw" and that his decision to remove Sterling from consideration for the Montenegro game had the full backing of the squad.

    Neville, who won 85 senior caps for England and was assistant to Roy Hodgson between 2012 and 2016, thinks Southgate was right to take reasonably strong action.

    "I've been involved in quite a few of these things over the years with England and there is no right or wrong way, in the sense that I've seen managers sweep it under the carpet and try to keep a low profile on these sorts of things," he told Sky Sports.

    "I've also seen managers go public, as Gareth has. What I would say is that the decision that Gareth has made... I feel like it's the right one without knowing the detail of what's gone on.

    "There's nothing worse than sweeping it under the carpet, and then all the players going back to their own rooms they all share together, and having that feeling that they're all talking about you being weak, and that you've not dealt with it because he's a big player and that he's shied away from a big decision.

    "So I feel that it's the right decision. Ultimately, if it's an incident that's happened in front of the rest of the squad that couldn't be dealt with internally and there was a breach of discipline then the manager has to act.

    "Sometimes it can cause you some problems down the line, because players can then go back to their own rooms, and say 'the manager's been harsh, there - he's one of our best mates, he's one of our best players.

    "But at least, if you're the manager, you know you've made the right decision based upon your principles and your values – that's what you should go with.

    "I've seen incidents like this dealt with in both ways with England and there is no ideal because it's so public and the media want their pound of flesh, including ourselves. But the reality is that these things happen in football, and it will blow over."

  • Kompany warns Man City against panic-buying defender in January Kompany warns Man City against panic-buying defender in January

    Former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has warned Pep Guardiola not to buy a new defender in January.

    City opted not to sign a replacement when Kompany left at the end of last season and Aymeric Laporte is not expected to return for at least another two months after sustaining a knee injury in September.

    Guardiola has been left with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as his only two senior centre-backs and has been forced to deploy Fernandinho in the role at times this season.

    City have looked shaky defensively in recent weeks, keeping only one clean sheet in six games in all competitions, and their concerns at the back were laid bare in Sunday's 3-1 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield.

    Kompany, though, does not think the solution is to spend big money on a reinforcement in the transfer window.

    "I don't think they need to sign another defender," he told Sky Sports.

    "We always struggle at Anfield. I said that on Super Sunday: you're fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that's difficult, it's two games in one game - you're playing a great team and you're fighting history.

    "Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool - they will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years.

    "That should be to City's advantage I still think. As to the defence, the best way for City to defend in the past has been to attack. They have no reason to change that.

    "As soon as they start reconnecting with the best performances, I'm convinced that we can see a sustainable amount of wins."

    The defeat, which leaves City nine points behind Liverpool in the table, was not without its controversy.

    The opening goal from Fabinho was allowed to stand despite the ball having struck the arm of Trent Alexander-Arnold in the Liverpool box seconds earlier, with VAR backing referee Michael Oliver's decision not to give City a penalty.

    "The incident happens and I'm confused," Kompany said. "That's the problem. I'm confused. I'm thinking 'okay, I'm not the expert in everything'. Then I look to my right at Jose Mourinho, Roy Keane and Graeme Souness. We're all confused.

    "Surely that says something about the process, the fact that this could still be for debate when there's a VAR system that is meant to make football simpler and fairer?

    "[The] goal happens 20 seconds later. My feeling remains that although Liverpool were great, and both teams tried to play the way they are known to play, I felt this first decision was so important to get right."

  • Arsenal urged to give Emery time by former captain Vieira Arsenal urged to give Emery time by former captain Vieira

    Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira insists Unai Emery deserves to be given time to turn around the Gunners' recent fortunes.

    Pressure is mounting on Emery following last Saturday's 2-0 Premier League defeat away to high-flying Leicester City.

    Arsenal are already eight points adrift of the top four after 12 matches and have won only once in their past seven games in all competitions.

    While it is believed the club hierarchy remain behind Emery, who was appointed as Arsene Wenger's successor after the 2017-18 season, there is a growing discontent among Arsenal supporters who think a change is essential to save their season.

    Vieira, a three-time Premier League champion in a glittering Arsenal career, says now is the time to unite behind the under-fire former Paris Saint-Germain boss.

    "It's true Arsenal are going through a tough spell," he told reporters on Monday. "But I haven't watched all their matches, so I can't talk about their game.

    "They have a coach who is qualified who works well. When a club is having a difficult time, it's important to be united. I think he has enough experience to get them through this difficult spell.

    "We have to get behind him and give him time to change things. I am not sure a change of manager will fix the problems."

    Wenger, meanwhile, has lately been tipped to make a first return to management since leaving Emirates Stadium.

    The 70-year-old told beIN SPORTS last week that he would be holding talks with Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge over the prospect of succeeding Niko Kovac, but he then clarified on Monday that he was not in the running for the job.

    Nice head coach Vieira still hopes to see his old manager make a return to the dugout, saying: "I would like to see him coaching again.

    "Arsene has a big passion [for football]. I have never met another coach who spends more time watching football games, analysing their opponent's matches, talking about football.

    "It's his passion, it's his life. So, I hope he can find another club to coach. It didn't work out with Bayern Munich; maybe it will work out with another team."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.