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Man City close in on second treble as Guardiola dismisses talk of FA Cup regrets

SoccerNews in English Premier League 15 Apr 2022

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Pep Guardiola likened Manchester City’s rivalry with Liverpool to an NBA playoffs series as he challenged his players to slam dunk their way into the FA Cup final.

City have a second treble in their sights this term, having previously completed a clean sweep of the three English domestic trophies in the 2018-19 season.

They can capture the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League this time, but Liverpool are a team who might deny them on all fronts, making Saturday’s Wembley semi-final a tantalising prospect.

Guardiola said he had no regrets about City’s disappointing record in FA Cup semi-finals during his reign. They have won only one of four matches at the last-four stage in this competition under his command, beating Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 on the way to the 2019 showpiece before crushing Watford 6-0 in the final.

Arsenal have beaten City twice at this stage during Guardiola’s reign, and Chelsea surprisingly had their number last season in the semi-finals.

Ahead of his fifth such occasion, Guardiola said: “I would have loved from five semi-finals to reach five finals and win all five finals. This would have been my dream, but the word ‘regret’, I don’t have it.

“I don’t have any regrets for my players. When they’re losing I am closer to them.

“We arrive now one month and a half to the end of the season, we are in the position of having two semi-finals in the big competitions.

“We are in the Premier League on top of the league, and we are in the semi-finals of the other two competitions.

“Come on, it’s so great. We are so satisfied about what we have done so far, but it is not enough. So try one more time, one more time, one more game, one more game.”

Saturday’s clash will be the first FA Cup meeting between City and Liverpool since Gerard Houllier’s Reds ran out 1-0 winners away from home against Kevin Keegan’s men in 2003, with Danny Murphy netting the winner.

It follows just six days after the teams met in the Premier League, battling out a gripping 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium, and with both sides through to the Champions League semi-finals, there is a possible further meeting on the horizon in the final of that competition.

Guardiola was asked if he had ever known such a rivalry where two sides were so dominant across a host of competitions, prompting him to point to a rivalry between his Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the 2010-11 season.

As that campaign boiled to its peak, the Clasico foes played one another four times in 18 days, consisting of two legs of a Champions League semi-final, a Copa del Rey final, and a LaLiga game.

Barcelona took the Champions League honours and went on to beat Manchester United in the final, Madrid won the Copa del Rey, and the league game finished in stalemate, with Guardiola’s team soon securing the title.

Just as then with Madrid, Guardiola is always wanting to learn more about the opposition.

“Of course, always you learn – every time you play against Liverpool you learn another thing,” he said.

“It’s like the playoffs in basketball. When you play in a short time many times. We played them one week ago and this is the second. With Madrid… it was like a real playoff.”

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