Man City manager Pep Guardiola: I don't fear Real Madrid, but I respect them

Quarter-final tie on a knife edge going into clash at Etihad Stadium after 3-3 draw in first leg

Powered by automated translation

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists he has no fear going into Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final decider against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium

The first leg in Spain ended in a rollercoaster 3-3 draw despite the reigning champions leading the match 1-0 and then 3-2 before a superb Federico Valverde strike earned Real a share of the spoils.

At the weekend, City demolished Luton Town 5-1 to take over at the top of the Premier League while Real battled to a 1-0 victory at Mallorca to maintain their eight-point lead over Barcelona at the summit of La Liga.

Catalan-born Guardiola spent most of his playing career at Real's fierce rivals as well as enjoying a hugely successful four-year spell as manager at Camp Nou.

Now he goes head-to-head with Los Blancos again, having demolished Carlo Ancelotti's side 5-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals of last year's competition that ended with City lifting the trophy for the first time in the club's history.

And Guardiola says taking on the 14-time European champions is not something that gives him sleepless nights.

“No I don't fear them,” said the former Bayern Munich coach, who played nearly 400 games in Barcelona's midfield. “But I respect them a lot. I have faced them many times.

“I'm not going to talk great things about them, and give you my opinion. I respect Real Madrid. And if I say I'm scared of them, I would be false.

“There's the rivalry. You want to beat them, and do well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I want us to do as well as we can. Be ourselves. If we can't be, it doesn't matter.

“But I'm not scared of them and if they beat me – as happened many times – we will say congratulations and wish them well.”

On the domestic front, last weekend could not have gone better for Guardiola's side as both their main title rivals were beaten at home – Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace, while Arsenal fell to a 2-0 loss against Aston Villa.

It means City remain on course for a repeat of last season's treble – they take on Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in the semi-final of the FA Cup on Saturday – although Guardiola believes it is too early to start thinking in those terms yet.

“I am not going to say 'don't feel this' to my players, but I have a different opinion,” he said. “We are far away from those hypothetical dreams.

“When we are in the final of the FA Cup and two or three games in the Premier League and in the final of the Champions League I will start to think about that.

“But you see how strong Chelsea are and what is a few points difference with six games to play in the Premier League? When I was a few points behind I said we had to do our job. It is the same feeling now.

“It's like when we drew against Arsenal and the computer said we had no chance and now we have a chance – I don't know if the computer can play left-back or right-back – but we just have to go one game at a time.

“I started to think of the treble last season only when we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final. The success for me this season is that we are still there after winning the treble and are four or five weeks away and still in contention.”

The winners of Wednesday's match in Manchester will then face either Bayern Munich or Arsenal in the semi-finals, with that tie also on a knife edge after the first leg in North London ended in a 2-2 draw.

But before that, City must navigate their way past the 2022 winners and their wily old manager Ancelotti whose four European Cup victories make him the most successful coach in the tournament's history.

“Always has been and always will be [big]. It's Real Madrid and in this competition it is always a big game,” Guardiola added. “It's special for me. Of course it is.

“We would like more days to prepare but it is what it is. It's better to be here with Wednesday and Saturday than not to be here. I will not complain one second about that.

“Twenty-four hours a day is a lot so you can find a way, and you have people to help you. It's about taking the right decisions. We have to be wary of surprises like Carlo Ancelotti has done in the first game.”

Updated: April 16, 2024, 3:11 PM