CITY SCORING ON AND OFF THE PITCH
EXCLUSIVE: AGUERO ON PEP AND BARCA CLASH
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.”
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.”
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