Guardiola wants City to toughen up
Pep Guardiola has challenged his Manchester City players to prove him wrong and show they are mentally strong enough to win the Champions League.
The manager claimed after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace that the Premier League champions were not ready to claim Europe’s biggest prize. City will take a giant step towards qualification for the knockout stages if they beat Group C whipping boys Atalanta at the Etihad Stadium tonight before the return game in Italy in a fortnight.
Guardiola’s side are favourites to top the group and their defensive woes appear to be easing, with Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones available again. But Guardiola – who has been frustrated in his efforts to reclaim the European Cup since winning it for a second time with Barcelona in 2011 – wants his players to toughen up.
City have twice exited the knockout stages on away goals under Guardiola, losing in the round of 16 to Monaco in his first season in charge and to Tottenham in the quarter-finals last term, with a 5-1 aggregate quarter-final defeat by Liverpool sandwiched in between.
Guardiola recognises that City have conceded too many goals over those ties – 15 in six games – and believes they need to be better defensively and more clinical with the chances they do get. “Sometimes qualification depends on a save from Ederson,” he said. “Little margins are the difference.
“I really believe these situations are about the mentality. We are good enough, we are strong enough. We believe that. When you play these games, you go in believing we’re going to defend well. When you play well, you don’t defend too much.
“We’ve got to think, to know when things are dangerous. When we talk about [improving in the] boxes, it’s always the defence but it is in front, too.
“In Europe, teams don’t give you 20 chances. After creating chances you have to be solid, you cannot give away the goals we’ve given this season.
“If you’re two on one, around the six-yard box, you have to score a goal. If not, it becomes more difficult in this competition against these top teams.
“In this competition, you play against incredible players and if you give some team, in one moment, a metre, they will score.” Manchester City