It’s a decade since Pep Guardiola gained the Champions League.
If that already feels an absurdly very long time for somebody extensively feted as the best energetic soccer supervisor, take into account that Guardiola hasn’t even reached the ultimate throughout these 10 years regardless of main the highest groups in Spain, Germany and England in that interval.
So, can his newest iteration at Manchester Metropolis — a relentless, record-shattering group closing in on one other English Premier League title — finish the wait?
Guardiola, not less than in public, is making an attempt to not get caught up within the hype.
“It’s nothing particular, nothing totally different,” Guardiola stated of the Champions League on Tuesday, a day earlier than Metropolis performs Borussia Moenchengladbach within the first leg of the spherical of 16.
Pushed repeatedly in regards to the significance of the Champions League — absolutely, for instance, it’s larger than the English League Cup? — Guardiola used the identical previous mantra, in a transparent try to take the strain off each him and Metropolis.
“We’re going to play the sport tomorrow like we performed the final video games, and I’d say the entire season in all competitions,” he stated. “Nothing particular. It’s a soccer sport. Ninety minutes.
“We’re going to do an excellent sport, to attempt to proceed and get an excellent consequence, and afterward take into consideration West Ham (within the Premier League), Saturday, 12:30. That’s the goal. The identical course of mentally.”
It’s comprehensible why Guardiola is making an attempt to maintain a lid on expectations, contemplating the ache Metropolis has gone via trying to develop into European champion for the primary time after years of heavy spending below its Abu Dhabi possession. For the reason that Spaniard arrived in 2016, Metropolis has been eradicated by Monaco within the final 16, Liverpool then Tottenham within the quarterfinals after which — maybe most disappointingly — Lyon in a one-legged quarterfinal final season.
Guardiola has been accused of overthinking his ways for knockout video games, like when he modified formation to match Lyon’s in August — serving solely to undermine the strengths of his personal group as a result of he was preoccupied by a extra restricted opponent, not less than on paper.
On Tuesday, Guardiola hinted that such overthinking is perhaps a factor of the previous.
“We’re going to put together the sport like a traditional sport,” he stated. “We’re going to deal with Moenchengladbach as a group like now we have performed towards Arsenal, like towards Liverpool, like Everton, like towards Tottenham (in current Premier League matches).
“We’re not going to vary completely something — little particulars to adapt just a little what they’re, nevertheless it’s not totally different to what we do more often than not within the Premier League.”
Giving additional hope that this lastly is perhaps Guardiola’s — and certainly Metropolis’s — season is a protection that was the tightest of all of the groups within the group stage, conceding only one purpose in six video games, and proving virtually impenetrable domestically.
Throughout a 13-match successful run within the Premier League which has earned the group a 10-point lead with 13 video games remaining, Metropolis has let in simply three objectives. It’s solely seven objectives conceded in 25 video games in all competitions since Metropolis was final defeated on Nov. 21 — at Tottenham 2-Zero.
The offseason signing of Portugal heart again Ruben Dias from Benfica has been big, his impression being in comparison with that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool. Like Van Dijk, Dias — regardless of being simply 23 — is a pure chief and a chilled affect to these round him.
Fellow heart again John Stones has clearly benefitted from the presence of Dias and is in the perfect type of his profession. Attacking full again Joao Cancelo has additionally been providing a brand new dimension to the group along with his place sense and creativity.
“It’s full credit score to our supervisor,” Metropolis midfielder Ilkay Gundogan stated on Tuesday. “He adjusted the best issues on the proper time. He noticed that one thing was flawed, one thing was a bit lacking and adjusted a few issues when it comes to how we defend and the way we play with the ball.
“That’s why he’s the perfect supervisor on the planet. It’s unbelievable. I by no means thought, to be sincere, in December about the place we are actually in February.”
Guardiola’s disappointing current report within the Champions League stretches again to earlier than his time at Metropolis, when he was eradicated within the semifinals in all three seasons he coached Bayern Munich (2014-16).
Each of his Champions League titles got here with Barcelona, in 2009 and ’11.