Premier League leaders trail Liverpool 3-0 following last week's first leg at Anfield
Pep Guardiola calls on Manchester City to be 'almost perfect' to reach Uefa Champions League semi-finals
Pep Guardiola called upon Manchester City to deliver an “almost perfect” performance to reach the Uefa Champions League semi-finals.
The Premier League leaders have to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Liverpool on Tuesday night, but Guardiola is adamant it is not mission impossible to produce one of the greatest comebacks in the competition’s history.
“We have to make almost the perfect game to go through,” said the City manager, a double Champions League winner from his days at Barcelona.
“We have to create chances, be clinical and concede few chances. All the conditions have to be perfect to go through. But you have 90 minutes and in football, everything can happen."
City have suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in Guardiola’s reign, losing 3-0 to Liverpool and then being beaten 3-2 by Manchester United when they missed the opportunity to clinch the Premier League title.
They conceded three goals in 19 minutes at Anfield and then three in 16 against their neighbours and Guardiola admitted he is concerned about the way opponents can score in spurts against them.
"A lot, a lot, we reflect and spoke,” he said. “But even in the best teams in the world you concede one and then concede three or four. It can happen.”
He nevertheless delivered a vote of confidence in his players, voicing his pleasure at their efforts in a campaign where City only lost four of their first 48 games in all competitions as they compiled a 13-point lead in the Premier League.
“We don't need to talk about motivation,” he said. “The way they play in every game shows what they want to do. The way they play all season shows what they want to do. I know we judge on results but performances? My team is exceptional. It is a joy to be manager of them. I am so delighted. This team is ready to fight with all the teams in Europe."
A confident Guardiola voiced his belief that City are future Champions League winners, even if it is not necessarily this season.
“We need more titles in Europe,” he said. “Sooner or later it is going to what happen with what this club has done in the last 10 years. For the big clubs, you need time but hopefully it will happen. If it is not this season, maybe it will be next.
“If we can't go through it'll be a good lesson for the future. We are not here for a few months. Football is a challenge."
He is an admirer of Liverpool and admitted they are among the toughest opposition to play, particularly because of their pace in attack.
"Their transitions are quick with their three up front plus [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain. You don't have time to go backwards.”
City midfielder Fernandinho concurred, referencing Liverpool’s three-goal salvo in nine minutes when City lost 4-3 at Anfield in the Premier League.
“The first game at Anfield was a bit of a nightmare against us when we concede three goals,” he said, while arguing that the most important thing is to keep a clean sheet. “If we concede one goal we have to score at least five,” he added.
Fernandinho believes he and City’s other senior players have an important role to play in ensuring morale does not drop after the toughest week of their season.
“The only way to play football is to have a strong mentality,” the Brazilian said. “Now is the time for all the experienced players to take over, to be in charge, to be in front of the group and of course the two defeats is not easy but it happens to the best teams in the world.”
Fernandinho also called for the City fans to deliver the sort of backing that will enable them to make it a famous night.
“We have to be together, everyone at the club to make some amazing scenes,” he said. “That is my faith and we have to fight to the end.”