Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City face a stiff test of character against a Bayern Munich side whose defiance he says is “in their skin”.
Although City lead 3-0 from the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Guardiola claims his side will on Wednesday be facing a Bayern team who firmly believe they can turn the tie around.
City have looked to have ties wrapped up before and then imploded, most recently in last season’s semi-finals when they led Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate as stoppage time approached in the second leg, only to still be knocked out.
Asked whether he was more confident than before in his group of players getting the job done, Guardiola said on Tuesday: “I would like to say yes, but I don’t know. Every game is completely different.
“I didn’t say to the team to be careful with Bayern Munich, how difficult they are. They are not relaxed because they felt it, they know it, how good the [Bayern] team is.
“The opponent has many, many weapons, and that’s why you have to be yourself. What do you have to do to achieve it? Be ourselves as much as possible.”
Guardiola said City were “here for business” and confirmed Phil Foden would be a substitute on his return from appendicitis.
The Catalan coach is on the brink of personal history, being one away from reaching 100 wins in the Champions League, a feat only previously achieved by Carlo Ancelotti (105) and Alex Ferguson (102).
Should be complete that century on Wednesday, it would have come in just 158 games, with Ancelotti having needed 180 games and Ferguson 184.
Building for Bayern! pic.twitter.com/07fPh1CqQb
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 18, 2023
Guardiola said City had not come to Munich to sit on their lead, but as and when the circumstances demand it, they will dig in defensively.
“I don’t understand the situation of coming here just to defend something,” said Guardiola, who coached Bayern from 2013 to 2016. “We come here to play one football game. If you think about just the result and what you have to do, or what we have done in the past, it would be a big mistake for us.
“We are going to defend, for sure. It happened in Manchester. For part of the game, they were better, and we had to defend, and we’re going to defend tomorrow.
“For us, it’s an opportunity. You see the [Bayern] trophy cabinet and how many times they have played this type of game in their incredible history, it is a lot.
“We are a few. We’re going to try to impose our game. We come here knowing the quality they have, adapt quick to maybe some new formation of the opponent, and do our game.
“We talk about the game we have to play and not talk about the result we had one week ago. It’s what you have to do in the game and focus in every single action to do what you have to do to get the result as best as possible to reach the semi-final.”
Guardiola suspects Thomas Tuchel and Bayern will be saying much the same thing.
“I’ve been here at Bayern Munich and know the mentality of this club,” Guardiola said. “It’s everywhere: it’s in [the club’s HQ at] Sabener Strasse, it’s in their skin.
“I know they believe they can do it, and we believe, too.”
Guardiola expects Bayern’s Thomas Muller to start, having only been a substitute in the first leg.
Should that be the case, City captain Ilkay Gundogan will be among those keeping a close eye on the man who can make Bayern tick, whom he knows well from their time together in Germany’s midfield.
Gundogan’s City future remains in the balance, with his contract expiring at the end of June, and the 32-year-old could offer no guidance on whether he will be staying in Manchester.
“There are talks. Obviously there are talks in the background. That’s quite normal with just a couple of months left,” Gundogan said. “Before going too much into details, there is nothing decided yet, not from my side and not from the club’s side.”
The skipper was delighted to hear Guardiola wants him to stay, saying: “I appreciate it a lot. We’ve been together seven years, and it’s been amazing. We’ve won a lot together and to hear things like that brings me joy, brings me a smile and makes me appreciate what I’ve done in the seven years.”
City have only lost one of their last 20 matches against German teams in the Champions League (W16 D3), losing away to RB Leipzig in the 2021-22 group stage.
They are unbeaten in their nine games against German sides in the knockout stages of the competition (W8 D1), although Bayern have only lost both legs of a Champions League knockout tie twice before, and both times it came against Real Madrid – in the 2013-14 semi-finals and the 2016-17 quarter-finals.
Their heaviest aggregate defeat was in the first of those ties, losing 5-0 against the Spanish side when Guardiola was Bayern head coach.
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