Pep Guardiola accepts his Manchester City players will not be able to forget Wednesday’s defeat to Real Madrid, but he does not believe that should hamper their Premier League title bid.
City suffered yet more Champions League pain as Madrid scored two late goals and another in extra time to beat Guardiola’s men 3-1 in their semi-final second leg, securing a 6-5 aggregate triumph.
Despite being four games away from another domestic league title, with Liverpool just a point behind, the Madrid match dominated Guardiola’s pre-match news conference ahead of playing Newcastle United.
The manager imagines it will be the same inside the minds of his players, yet that does not concern him.
“They don’t have to forget it,” he said. “How are we going to forget it? We are going to play against Newcastle thinking about that, for sure.
“All the players in the training sessions, the meeting rooms, the warm-up, they are committed, they are going to do it. I don’t have any doubt about that.”
Guardiola made the assertion despite claiming he has not spoken to his City squad since returning from Madrid, allowing them time to recover before facing Newcastle.
Asked what he had said to the players, the Catalan coach said: “Nothing, we didn’t speak. No words can help what all of us feel. It’s just a question of time.
“Tomorrow will be the first day we’ll be together, and we are going to talk about who we are as a team, what we have done in this semi-final of the Champions League, how good we have been – not just in these two games but all season – and trying to do an excellent last week.
Not our night.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 4, 2022
“Probably it’s one of the moments since I’ve been manager [when I have been] the most proud I am to be in this club, this organisation.”
Guardiola’s explanation for much of what happened in midweek was simple, repeating several times: “It’s football.”
He bristled at the idea Rodrygo Goes’ dramatic last-gasp double exposed a mental fragility in his City side.
“There is no time for ‘mental’,” Guardiola said. “It was 45 seconds later.”
He added: “Now people say it’s a lack of character. A lack of character? What happens if Jack Grealish scores the two goals?
“Where is the character in Atletico when Ederson saves from [Angel] Correa. That’s character, but if he scores it’s not character?
“When [Thibaut] Courtois saves with his feet and it goes one centimetre to the corner, that is not character?”
City will certainly have to show character against Newcastle, surely fatigued from a draining European encounter in which they appeared to again lose Kyle Walker to injury.
However, Guardiola assured Kevin De Bruyne’s substitution in Madrid was only “tactical”. “He’s good,” the City boss added.
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