CITY SCOR­ING ON AND OFF THE PITCH

EXCLUSIVE: AGUERO ON PEP AND BARCA CLASH

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back adrian@7days.ae

When Pep Guardi­ola ar­rived at Manch­ester City the ex­pec­ta­tion level rose im­me­di­ately. The Premier League club had landed the most cov­eted man­ager in foot­ball and he was ex­pected to take them to new heights.

The Spa­niard was also bring­ing a hunger and de­sire to the English club, for de­spite his suc­cess at Bay­ern Mu­nich, there will still some at the Bavar­ian club who felt he un­der­achieved.

Three league ti­tles and two Ger­man Cup tri­umphs was the bare min­i­mum as far as many Bay­ern fans were con­cerned, what they wanted was another Cham­pi­ons League crown.

Now Guardi­ola is de­ter­mined to win Europe’s most pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion for a third time and it ap­pears the City squad are start­ing to be­lieve they can de­liver that stun­ning piece of sil­ver­ware.

“There is a lot of be­lief in this squad at the mo­ment,” Sergio Aguero told 7DAYS. “It is a big am­bi­tion of mine and the club’s to win the Cham­pi­ons League.

“Bay­ern, Barcelona, and Madrid will be fight­ing hard as nor­mal, but we have been im­prov­ing ev­ery year in Europe. So there is con­fi­dence.”

MAS­SIVE TEST

It ap­peared City felt they could sweep all be­fore them as they started this sea­son in bull­doz­ing fash­ion, win­ning their first 10 games un­der Guardi­ola.

But in the past three matches not all has gone to plan. There was the 3-3 draw at Celtic in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion, then came the shock 2-0 de­feat to Tot­ten­ham and fi­nally a frus­trat­ing 1-1 draw with Ever­ton in which Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne missed penal­ties. Next up tonight is a mas­sive test in the form of Barcelona – Guardi­ola’s for­mer club who he la­belled a “ma­chine” and will look to dom­i­nate ev­ery as­pect of the game. Yet de­spite this re­cent run of dis­ap­point­ing re­sults, Aguero feels City will be com­pet­i­tive at the Camp Nou as they strive to top their group. “Even when we were play­ing well we knew there was no room for com­pla­cency as we want to have a suc­cess­ful sea­son so we knew it was im­por­tant to stay fo­cused,” he said. “Barcelona are of course one of the best teams in Europe with special play­ers, but this is not the knock-out stages – it is just the chance to fight for points. “The most im­por­tant thing is we can qual­ify and if pos­si­ble win the group.” Per­haps key to gain­ing a pos­i­tive re­sult against the Cata­lan club is the inside knowl­edge of Guardi­ola – the man who rein­vig­o­rated Barcelona dur­ing his four-year spell in charge.

A metic­u­lous plan­ner, Aguero pro­vided an in­sight into what has changed since Guardi­ola ar­rived in Manch­ester.

“Ev­ery coach has their own ideas and un­der Pep we are play­ing a dif­fer­ent style,” he ex­plains. “It was a style we started work­ing on from day one in pre­sea­son and I think we are now seeing that on the field.

“He im­ple­ments the style he wants the whole team to play, but also he works with you one on one to help you be­come bet­ter play­ers in­di­vid­u­ally.

“He also won’t com­pro­mise the style of foot­ball he wants to play for any­thing. The most im­por­tant thing is our game and he pre­pares us well so we know what to ex­pect from the op­po­si­tion.”

LEG­ENDARY FOR­WARD

In or­der for City to play their own pass­ing game against Barcelona, the en­tire team must de­liver – from the back to the front.

With­stand­ing the deadly trio of Lionel Messi, Ney­mar and Luis Suarez will be far from easy, but City must also take the game to their op­po­nents and for that they need their own front three to shine.

De­spite his missed penalty against Ever­ton, Aguero has been in sen­sa­tional form this sea­son. Much like Suarez, the Ar­gen­tine is a bun­dle of en­ergy who pos­sesses quick feet, an even sharper brain and a clin­i­cal na­ture in front of goal. He has thrived this sea­son thanks in part to the form of De Bruyne and Ra­heem Ster­ling. Two play­ers Aguero be­lieves make his life as a goalscorer that much eas­ier. “It’s im­por­tant I work hard in train­ing and I am as sharp as I can be, but when you play with cre­ative play­ers like that it makes your job as a goalscorer so much eas­ier,” said Aguero. “I am so for­tu­nate to have such cre­ative team­mates.

“Kelechi Iheana­cho has also been play­ing very well and peo­ple can see what a tal­ent he is. He has a re­ally big fu­ture – that is for sure.”

There is also one other rea­son Aguero is ex­cited to be at the Camp Nou, he will have the chance to see his close friend and fel­low coun­try­man Messi.

Aguero feels Messi is the “most im­por­tant player in the world” so will be once again be try­ing to con­vince the leg­endary for­ward to join him at the Eti­had? “I have al­ready told him what a great club Manch­ester City is and what a great place it is to play,” added Aguero. “Of course I would love him here, but I don’t think any­thing would get him away from Barcelona.”

“It’s a big am­bi­tion of mine and the club’s to win the Cham­pi­ons League. There is be­lief.” – SERGIO AGUERO

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