Guardiola says Manchester City must suffer in Champions League

Manager suggests easy progress in group stages hasn't helped side

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe we need to live a [difficult] moment in the competition.” Photograph: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe we need to live a [difficult] moment in the competition.” Photograph: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

 

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City may need to “suffer” in the Champions League group stage to comprehend how difficult progression deep into the competition is, after failing to reach the semi-finals in each of his two years as manager.

Under Guardiola’s management City have been eliminated at the last-16 stage by Monaco and the quarter-finals by Liverpool. This was after qualification to the knockout phase was achieved with a game to spare each time. Having lost 2-1 at home to Lyon in the opening Group F match, he understands how imperative defeating Hoffenheim at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Tuesday night is.

“Maybe we need to live a [difficult] moment in the competition,” he said. “The last two seasons when I’m here we qualified quite comfortably. Maybe you have to suffer in the group stage to realise and make a step forward.”

The defeat against Lyon may be such a moment, and Guardiola warned: “We have five finals to qualify, [there is] not time to lose a lot of games and we’ve lost the first one. We know the situation we are in. Five finals and this is the first one. Except Real Madrid, in the last three years nobody wins it [more than once] – it’s so tough [but] in the last five or six years we’ve made a step forward.”

Vincent Kompany stated how claiming the European Cup represents a final frontier for the club under Sheikh Mansour’s ownership as City have claimed every domestic trophy at least once. “It’s the last step we haven’t achieved yet and the club is always aiming to progress,” the captain said.

“There’s nothing more we haven’t achieved, [apart from] maybe competitions in succession. But this is such a difficult competition to win. I don’t want to put the pressure on the manager but we’ll see – we’ll do our best. This competition is so difficult because there are [so many] good teams. You look back at the last few years, we went to the semi-final [in 2015-16], unfortunately never the final. Every year you lose, you have to start again.

“I’m not looking too big into the past. This is a good team, if we play at our level we’ll give ourselves a chance. You can’t ask for more right now.”

Ultimate target

Kompany has now been at the club for a decade and the Champions League remains the ultimate target. “I’d love to win it with City, but it’s such a tough competition to win,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s okay to say we want to win it but there’s other teams who are just as well equipped to win. We have to deal with fact we lost to Lyon – we worry about Hoffenheim and then if we get momentum, anything is possible.”

Hoffenheim finished third in the Bundesliga last season though they are only 11th this season, and lost at home 2-1 to RB Leipzig on Saturday. Sergio Agüero is available despite a heel problem and, while City are at Liverpool on Sunday for a pivotal Premier League meeting, the manager will not consider this when deciding if the striker should start against Hoffenheim.

“It’s such a big game,” Guardiola said. “He’s here because the doctors say he’s able and he’s much better [though] he still has pain. We are going to decide on him or Gabriel Jesus. Everyone is here because they are able to play.”

Following a serious knee injury, Kevin De Bruyne trained with the squad in Manchester but did not fly to Germany. The Belgian is expected to be available following the international break, which commences after the weekend. Guardiola said: “Kevin is not here because he can’t be. We miss his quality, of course. He’s back training – the first time with the team – we’ll see when he’s ready to join the team in the games.”

Mbappé rumours

Guardiola ruled out a move for Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé, following a report that he was interested and that Raheem Sterling may be sold to help finance the deal. “That is not going to happen,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t understand where the news comes from. Manchester City aren’t going to spend the money that Mbappé deserves, or that PSG deserves.

“PSG are not going to sell this kind of player to any other club in the world in the next years, I guess. That is not going to happen, Mbappé is not going to come here, we are not going to swap Raheem or another top player that we have.

“People should be more respectful of PSG, respectful of Manchester City, for the players from PSG, for the players from Man City, they should have more respect. Of course, I am the second person to know exactly which players are targets [after Txiki Begiristain, sporting director], which players I want to sell or something like that. But it is what it is.”

Kompany is out of contract next summer but was reluctant to talk about his future. “It’s not the place or the moment to discuss,” he said. “I’m a player of this wonderful club and I’ve the same duty until the last day. All the rest is speculation as we’ve such an important game tomorrow.” – Guardian

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