The Spaniard is aware of the challenge lying ahead of him as Manchester City take on PSG in Champions League semifinals first leg
It is down to the last four teams in Europe to fight it out for the Champions League honour. From here on there is no easy match. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola knows it as they prepare to take on Paris Saint Germain’s star-studded attacking unit in the first leg of Champions League semifinal. Facing world class forwards like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe can be a daunting task for any team. And Guardiola is well aware of the challenge lying ahead of him.
“Always unbelievable, the quality of these players they have,” Guardiola said. “Defensive strategies [to stop them] don’t work. They are too good. I try to sleep well last night and I slept when I was not thinking about their players like that! They are incredible players, the quality they have, the way they play.”
He feels the only way to stop them would be to defend as a unit. “We will try and stop them by defending together as a team and playing well as a team. We are going to concede counter-attacks, they have a lot of weapons,” he added. “We will have to adjust something of course when you play against these players like we did against Tottenham, like we will against Wilfried Zaha [of Crystal Palace] in the next game.”
“But at the same time, it wouldn’t make any sense to not be who we are when we are arriving on this stage for just the second time in our history. I am pretty sure we will try to be ourselves and get the result we will need for the second leg. The best balance is to have the ball. If you have the ball all the time, the balance is there.”
Guardiola conceded that they will face the threat of counter attacks. Hence, he went on to explain how to nullify these threats. “We will concede counter-attacks, it’s impossible [not to]. If you defend so deep, Neymar, Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Marquinhos, they have a lot of weapons,” he said.
“They are used to playing teams who defend 90 minutes and they find a way. That is not the best way to defend against the team who have everything, it’s best to impose your game like we have for five years.”
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) April 27, 2021
Neymar can cause a variety of problems to any team on a given day. Either with his goals, assists or trickery in the final third, the Brazilian can always make something happen out of nothing. While speaking about Neymar, the former Barca and Bayern Munich boss, Guardiola, only had good things to say about him.
“I remember when I showed clips of Santos, I remember I said, ‘This is the king of Santos’, and the players’ mouths were open saying, ‘Oh my god, what a player’. He’s a joy to watch as a spectator, the personality, he has Brazil on his shoulders,” he added.
“I’m sure if Neymar had a longer stay in Barcelona they would win two or three Champions Leagues more. Those three were unstoppable, the best three I saw up front in my life.”
“He decided to go to Paris, not a bad decision, a nice city and nice club. I want him to have stability, no injuries. I’m a big admirer because he helped to make football better. It’s a pleasure to play a semifinal against PSG.”
The Spanish coach also showered praise on Mbappe. “A young player, he will have the world of football ahead of him,” Guardiola added. “Already a French champion, World Cup. Quite similar to Erling Haaland in terms of, ‘Wow’, how many goals, pace. Looks like a nice guy. Benjamin Mendy is his friend, says he’s a nice guy. We’re going to try to beat them, all of them.”