Guardi­ola de­mands City fo­cus on avoid­ing an­other Cham­pi­ons League crash

Lapses of con­cen­tra­tion have proved costly in past cam­paigns Trans­fers are an un­wanted dis­trac­tion on eve of Real clash

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By James Ducker North­erN Foot­ball Cor­re­spoN­deNt

There is good rea­son Manch­ester City have opted not to make a song and dance about their two new sign­ings this week. Pep Guardi­ola is de­ter­mined to avoid any dis­trac­tions ahead of the club’s big­gest game of the sea­son at the Eti­had Sta­dium tonight, and you could sense him want­ing to change the sub­ject quickly when asked for his opin­ions about Fer­ran Tor­res and Nathan Ake yes­ter­day.

It is why the City man­ager may have been par­tic­u­larly frus­trated by the tim­ing of the news that his 19-year-old de­fender, Eric Gar­cia, does not want to sign a new con­tract. For al­most a fort­night now, the fo­cus has been solely on Real Madrid, and Guardi­ola has wanted noth­ing to de­tract from the task of see­ing off the 13-time Euro­pean cham­pi­ons in the sec­ond leg of their round-of-16 tie to se­cure City’s safe pas­sage into the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals.

Given Guardi­ola’s re­cent his­tory in the com­pe­ti­tion, this sharp em­pha­sis on con­cen­tra­tion, on fo­cus, is en­tirely un­der­stand­able. In five of the past six sea­sons, Guardi­ola has seen his City and Bay­ern Mu­nich teams crash out in the knock­out stages, in large part due to the way they have been over­whelmed by op­po­nents in quick-fire bursts – and with each fail­ure the pres­sure builds.

Tot­ten­ham scored twice in three min­utes in the sec­ond leg of their quar­ter-fi­nal vic­tory last sea­son. Twelve months ear­lier, Liver­pool picked off City with three goals in 19 min­utes in the first leg of their last-eight tie at An­field. Monaco en­joyed sim­i­lar suc­cess in Guardi­ola’s de­but cam­paign with City, with two goals in eight min­utes of their round-of-16, first-leg match and two goals in 21 min­utes in the re­turn game.

It was a sim­i­lar story in his first two sea­sons with Bay­ern: Real plun­dered three goals in just 18 min­utes en route to an em­phatic 4-0 semi-fi­nal, sec­ond-leg vic­tory at the Al­lianz Arena in 2014 and, a year later, three late goals in 17 min­utes by Barcelona in­flicted ir­repara­ble dam­age to Bay­ern’s hopes of reach­ing the fi­nal.

So, Guardi­ola’s teams have shown a trou­bling habit of fall­ing to pieces in a short space of time and the Cata­lan is adamant that, if his team are to win the com­pe­ti­tion this term, they must re­act far bet­ter in those bad mo­ments and stop their minds from be­com­ing scram­bled.

“Yeah, def­i­nitely, more than con­ced­ing goals it’s the way we are con­ced­ing them,” Guardi­ola said. “When they are bril­liant [goals], and an op­po­nent makes a good ac­tion, we ac­cept it. But most of the goals we could avoid, and we have to avoid it.

“Mak­ing mis­takes like that in this com­pe­ti­tion pun­ishes you a lot. We know it. We’ve spo­ken about that not just now, in th­ese last few weeks, but for years, many times, in im­por­tant games like this. We know it and if we want to make a step for­ward as a team to be close to win­ning this com­pe­ti­tion we have to be bet­ter in this area.”

With a 2-1 ad­van­tage from a Kevin De Bruyne-in­spired first leg at the Bern­abeu, City are in the box seat, but Real will have noted their op­po­nents’ ca­pac­ity to crum­ble and Zine­dine Zi­dane, the Span­ish cham­pi­ons’ coach, has of­ten suc­cess­fully demon­strated a prag­matic streak that Guardi­ola’s crit­ics feel he might ben­e­fit from in this com­pe­ti­tion.

This Real team may not be nearly as good or dan­ger­ous as the one that crushed Guardi­ola’s Bay­ern en route to the first of four Euro­pean Cups in five sea­sons.

They will also be without their cap­tain and de­fen­sive linch­pin, Ser­gio Ramos, while their main counter-at­tack­ing threat, Eden Haz­ard, is not fully fit, which makes the ab­sence of Gareth Bale a lit­tle harder to un­der­stand, even if the Welsh­man’s re­la­tion­ship with Zi­dane is

My way: Pep Guardi­ola is de­ter­mined hiis side will avoid con­ced­ing avoid­able goals

se­verely strained. But Real have an aura in the Cham­pi­ons League which en­sures they re­main a threat, just as City, for all their tal­ents, have yet to con­vince that they have the men­tal­ity and re­solve to pre­vail in this com­pe­ti­tion.

Vic­tory at the Bern­abeu in Fe­bru­ary, when Guardi­ola asked De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva to op­er­ate as false nines and Gabriel Je­sus wide left in a nom­i­nal 4-4-2, felt like a step for­ward, men­tally as much as any­thing. But they still have to fin­ish the job and will have to do so without Ser­gio Aguero, who has not given up hope of be­ing fit for

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