Man City’s ‘World Cup’: Pep Guardiola’s team bid for Champions League glory
Sky Blues prepare for a potential three knockout games in eight days in Portugal
Pep Guardiola has won every trophy there is to win in England since becoming manager of Manchester City in 2016.
The Spaniard has guided City to Premier League titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19, the FA Cup in 2019, League Cups in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and FA Community Shields in 2018 and 2019.
But despite his domestic successes, he has a major gap in his City CV: winning the Uefa Champions League.
As head coach of FC Barcelona, Guardiola led the Catalans to Champions League titles on two occasions - 2008-09 and 2010-11. However, at City he still awaits European glory. Could 2020 be the year when Guardiola and Co finally lift the famous silver trophy? He will find out in the next 11 days.
It’s a knockout
With the coronavirus putting a halt to the football season, City had to wait five months to complete their round of 16 tie against 13-time European champions Real Madrid.
In February City won 2-1 in the first leg at the Bernabeu and in the return fixture at the Etihad last Friday they repeated the scoreline to secure a 4-2 aggregate victory and a place in the last eight.
The post-lockdowon conclusion of the Champions League has a new look to it, with a mini-tournament taking place from 12-23 August in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
Instead of the usual two-legged affairs, the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be one-off knockout fixtures - similar to those seen at major international tournaments such as the Fifa World Cup or Euros.
The action starts on Wednesday with the first quarter-final between Atalanta and Paris St-Germain. On Thursday RB Leipzig face Atletico Madrid and Friday sees Barcelona take on Bayern Munich. City’s clash against French side Lyon on Saturday concludes the round.
‘Every game is a final’
Speaking ahead of the tie against Lyon at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, Guardiola has urged his players to embrace the sudden-death format.
The 49-year-old City boss said: “It is quite similar to a World Cup. Before it was last-16, quarter-final and semi-final with two games and now every game is a final.
“You are in, or you are out. We will see a final against Lyon, there are no second chances or mistakes. We are looking forward to it, we are going to prepare well and will try to go through.”
With a potential three games in eight days in Lisbon, Guardiola believes his squad are fully focussed on the task at hand. Not just the knockout fixtures, but also preparing for the games in the right way.
However, it won’t be all work and no play for the City squad though.
“We cannot stay nine or ten days away in Portugal staying in the room just waiting for the matches,” Guardiola said. “We have to try and make walks, make good lunches and dinner together, and of course training and prepare for the games as best as possible. And after that, try to beat them.
“When you arrive at this stage and you see the desire the players have to go through or win this competition, it is just to have fun. Because I know in every single situation they will be focused, they are going to prepare incredibly well.”
Should City beat Lyon and progress to the semi-finals it would see Guardiola go up against one of the teams he formerly managed - Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
It’s a challenge that the serial winner will have to face if he wants to bring the Champions League trophy back to Manchester.
2020 Champions League fixtures
All one-leg ties are being held in Lisbon, Portugal, and are live on BT Sport.
- Wednesday 12 August: Atalanta vs. Paris St-Germain (8pm BST; Estadio da Luz, Lisbon)- Thursday 13 August: RB Leipzig vs. Atletico Madrid (8pm BST; Estadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon)- Friday 14 August: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich (8pm BST; Estadio da Luz, Lisbon)- Saturday 15 August: Manchester City vs. Lyon (8pm BST; Estadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon)
- Tuesday 18 August: RB Leipzig or Atlético Madrid vs. Atalanta or Paris Saint-Germain (Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica)- Wednesday 19 August: Manchester City or Lyon vs. Barcelona or Bayern Munich (Estádio José Alvalade)
2020 Champions League final
- When: Sunday 23 August- Where: Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Champions League winner odds
Prices according to Oddschecker (as of 11 August)
- Manchester City: 9/4- Bayern Munich: 3/1- Paris Saint-Germain: 11/2- Barcelona: 8/1- Atletico Madrid: 17/2- Atalanta: 12/1- RB Leipzig: 20/1- Lyon: 50/1