Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

John Stones urges Manchester City to dare to dream ahead of must-win Uefa Champions League clash

All about mindset, says defender as overturning 1-0 deficit against Tottenham on Wednesday key to keeping quadruple bid alive

Manchester City defender John Stones and manager Pep Guardiola have taken different approaches to upcoming fixtures. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP
Manchester City defender John Stones and manager Pep Guardiola have taken different approaches to upcoming fixtures. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

John Stones has told Manchester City the quadruple is not impossible and they must dare to dream to make history.

The League Cup winners and FA Cup finalists will retain their Premier League crown if they win their five remaining games and on Wednesday night will try to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit in their Uefa Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur.

While Pep Guardiola has downplayed talk of winning all four trophies, defender Stones said City have the confidence and trust in themselves that they can manage a second unprecedented achievement in as many seasons.

“I don’t think a lot of things are impossible, that is the mindset of different people and if you don’t dream then you are not going to get anywhere near it," he said. "It comes from within everyone. We have this belief and ambition to do it.

"Last season, 100 points was never done before. We have everything to play for and we have to enjoy the pressure and roll with it and believe in ourselves.”

The England centre-back insisted he is relishing the pressure of the run-in, explaining: “You get the best out of yourselves when you are under that scrutiny and you find within yourself who you are as a player and the players around you.

"To be in those big games, it is a privileged position to be in.”

Stones conceded he is unsure whether he would rather win the Premier League or the Champions League, saying "they are both so important for our history as a club".

"It is one of those questions where the amount of games [in the Premier League] compared to the prestigious competition is something we have not got and want to put in the trophy cabinet,” he added.

Manager Guardiola took a different approach ahead of a week in which City also face Spurs and Manchester United in the Premier League.

“If we don’t win these games we’ll be out of two competitions," he explained. "They are absolute finals for us. I’ve had that feeling from weeks ago.”

Guardiola is looking to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the eighth time as a manager, but he has not won the competition since 2011.

He reached the last four three years in a row with Bayern Munich and said sarcastically it is seen as underachievement, joking that at City “the chairman told me I have to win it three years in a row".

“I know at Bayern Munich, after three seasons winning absolutely everything, the Champions League was a big failure," he said. "I have to live with that. In football you lose more than you win.”

As he outlined, the margins on such stages can be narrow. “I have missed to qualify to the final two times with a penalty in semi-finals,” he said, referring to Lionel Messi’s spurned spot kick when Chelsea knocked Barcelona out in 2012 and Jan Oblak’s save from Thomas Muller when Atletico Madrid eliminated Bayern four years later.

“I got through with one shot on target in the semi-final second leg and I lose when we didn’t get through after 33 shots on target,” he reflected. “Football is that game.”

Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling are fit while Fernandinho, who missed Sunday’s win at Crystal Palace, has returned to training as only Oleksandr Zinchenko is definitely out.

Guardiola urged the City supporters to be as loud as they were when their title rivals were defeated at Etihad Stadium in January.

“The Liverpool game will be enough for me,” he said. “I want to see if the fans really want to get to the semi-final. I’m really curious to how our fans are going to react.”

Updated: April 16, 2019 05:24 PM

SHARE

SHARE