Pep Guardiola considers the second match of the semifinals of the Champions League to be the most difficult game in football and he has scars to prove it.
It was at this crucial stage that Guardiola failed in each of his three years at Bayern Munich, from 2013-16. In one of these second matches, Bayern was crushed by Real Madrid with 4: 0.
Go back two more years – until the last of their four seasons at Barcelona – and Guardiola suffered one of the most painful results of his career in the semi-final second leg: Dramatic 2-2 draw with Chelsea at the Camp Nou, where Barça surrendered two goals against an opponent playing with 10 men for nearly an hour.
In fact, it has been a decade since Guardiola celebrated his promotion to the Champions League semi-finals. So maybe there’s some concern – certainly some nerves – as he puts Manchester City in the rematch against Paris Saint-Germain, even with his team leading 2-1?
Not a bit of him.
“We are here for the first time, for most of us at this club,” Guardiola said on Monday, a day before perhaps the biggest European game in City’s history. “Of course, I know what we’re playing for, but you don’t need a lot of emotion in these kinds of games.
“It’s more about calm. Knowing exactly what to do. “
For Guardiola, the second stage of the semifinals is as mental as it is physical. Some players have in mind the result of the first match, others may think about the prospect of playing in the final.
So, his biggest task in the last two days was to keep the City players right now.
PSG, Guardiola insisted, was not mentioned at all.
“It’s not necessary,” Guardiola said. “We are just talking about ourselves, us and us and what we need to do.
“I haven’t said a word about them.”
Perhaps Guardiola’s confidence in his pre-match press conference stemmed from the way City falsified PSG and its world-class strikers Kaylian Mbape and Neymar in the second half of the first game, when City came down from 1-0 with a show of maturity. and confidence.
With the rise of City, PSG became reckless, Mbape and Neymar were disappointed, Idrissa Guy received a red card, managing the best midfielder of PSG from the rematch at the Etihad Stadium.
Downtown defender John Stones will be tasked with holding Mbape and Neymar back, and he accepts the challenge.
“The character and resilience that comes from behind is something that is not easy to do and after the game we felt great pride and complacency,” said Stones. “These moments, especially those big moments in the Champions League, are something we can thrive on in the next 90 minutes tomorrow.”
In fact, Guardiola, who did not report any new concerns about City’s injury, tried to reduce the pressure on his team by comparing the size of the match with a typical English game in the Premier League.
“We will not want anything special,” he said. “We play tough, tough matches in the Premier League, at the same level as PSG, because the Premier League is so demanding and difficult. Even in the Champions League in the group stage. “
A 2-1 advantage could leave some teams caught in two minds, whether sitting in front positions or going for the kill.
For the Stones, there is only one chance, as City seems to reach its first Champions League final and move within one step of achieving its long-term goals in Abu Dhabi.
“We have to attack the game like any other game to go out and win,” he said. “We’ve never been in a game if we’re in a good position, thinking we have to sit there and think the job is done or protected or something.
“The downward spiral is if we enter the game this way.”