Pep Guardiola hopes things are different for Manchester City this time around
Pep Guardiola remains convinced Manchester City were better than their past two Champions League conquerors.
Yet the City boss insists the frustrations of those knockout stage defeats to Tottenham in 2019 and Lyon last year provide no extra motivation this time around.
City resume their latest bid to win Europe’s elite club competition as they face Borussia Monchengladbach in the first leg of their last-16 tie in neutral Budapest on Wednesday.
City have failed to progress beyond the last eight in four previous attempts under Guardiola, and the manner of their exits at that stage over the past two seasons was especially disappointing.
Guardiola said: “All the times when we went out of the Champions League we were in a high level. We were so close.
“Against Tottenham two years ago and Lyon, I had the feeling we were better but we were out. But it’s football, it can happen.
“I’m not a big fan of saying that experiences in the past help you today – bad experiences or good experiences.
“You have to be focused (for) 90 minutes, like we have to be focused in the Premier League. It’s nothing special or different.
“We have to play the game to our principles, to have the desire to play good – not for this competition, but for what do we have to do to beat them, no more than that.
“After that, if we deserve it and if we are good enough, we go on to the quarter-finals. If we don’t we are out. I have no more expectations than that.”
City are strong favourites for the tie having won their last 18 matches in all competitions, while Monchengladbach have slipped to eighth in the Bundesliga after a surprise loss to struggling Mainz at the weekend. The German side are also reeling from the news coach Marco Rose is to leave for rivals Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season.
City’s winning run – which has not only taken them 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League but also to the latter stage of two other cup competitions – is a record for an English top-flight side.
Naturally, Guardiola sees no reason to veer from their current formula, although he admits it is no guarantee of continued success.
He said: “When you analyse the last two months, how good we’ve done, we are going to do for the rest of the season what we have done these last two months.
“It works, but it might not in the future – and the future is tomorrow (Wednesday), and the West Ham game (on Saturday).
“Football is the most unpredictable game. If you believe everything is under control, and you believe you are going to do it, you might not do it.
“But we’re going to prepare like a normal game like we’ve played this season. We’re not going to change anything.”
Guardiola will certainly expect news of his team selection to be kept in-house prior to the match.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said he would investigate at the weekend after news of an injury to Jack Grealish was apparently leaked on social media.
Reports since then, unconfirmed by Villa, have suggested the leak could have been caused by people in or around the squad playing online Fantasy Premier League. It is claimed those playing the game transferred the Villa captain from their sides and this was detected by a ‘bot’ on Twitter and subsequently publicised.
Villa have been approached for comment.
Guardiola says he knows nothing about fantasy football but would be unimpressed by any leaks of his planning.
He said: “I know the players play games but I don’t know what ‘Fantasy’ is, honestly. I don’t know what they are talking about.
“But sometimes you make a team selection and people, the players, know players from other teams and they are friends, and they talk about what they do.
“Sometimes it happens, and it’s incredibly unethical and unprofessional, but you cannot control it.”