Embrace the big stage, Pep Guardiola tells Manchester City ahead of PSG showdown

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Andy Hampson, PA
·3-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to savour every moment of their Champions League semi-final – and not lose sleep thinking about Neymar.

The Premier League leaders face the formidable Neymar and the rest of the star-studded Paris St Germain side in the first leg of their last-four tie at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

It is only the second time City have reached this stage of the competition and the first since Guardiola took charge of the team in 2016.

The City manager, a two-time winner as Barcelona boss, says it is an occasion to be enjoyed.

He said: “I learned from Johan Cruyff – when you arrive at these stages there is only one thing you can do and that is enjoy the game. Enjoy the responsibility and the pressure. Enjoy the fact that you have not lived more of these situations.

“That is elite. Top players enjoy this situation because they take the responsibility. That’s why the greatest win this competition, and the greatest clubs win this competition because they play it as a friendly game.

“That’s what I want to see in my team and that is what are going to do. We are privileged to be one of the best four teams in Europe this season and we must enjoy it.”

Guardiola admits his team will have their work cut out to keep the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe quiet, but he insists it is not something he is overly worrying about.

He said: “Always I believe that with the amount of quality that these players have, there are not defensive strategies to stop them. They are too good.

“I tried to sleep well last night and I slept well when I was not thinking of them. That is the reality.

“They are incredible top, top players. That is why they play in that team with the quality they have.

“We are going to try to stop them and the way we are going to do that is to defend well all together as a team, and play good football as a team and try to score goals.

“Of course we have to adjust something when you play against those players a little bit, but we will try to impose, to be what we have been in these five years together.

“I am sure we will try to be ourselves and get the result we need for the second leg.”

City must work out a way to stop Neymar
City must work out a way to stop Neymar (Martin Rickett/PA)

Guardiola conceded defensive work is not his side’s greatest strength, but he expects them to make up for that in other ways.

“We are not good in our defensive departments,” he said. “We are good with the ball. Our strong point defensively is because 11 players run a lot.

“Tomorrow, unfortunately, we will have to run more and more because PSG are so strong.”

Guardiola was relaxed as he spoke for more than half-an-hour at the pre-match press conference and he feels this is the best mindset to adopt.

He said: “Always it happens in my career in this competition, when I arrive in the semi-finals. I was always calmer than in other competitions, other moments.

“I don’t know why but I have the sense of the work well done already, and I see the team so happy and in the right moment, for the tension and the responsibility. In the same moment I say, ‘OK we are going to try to do a good game’.

“I have that feeling, but in this competition, with the quality, you can win or lose. You never know.”