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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Too soon to dream of a double treble, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

City host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday at the Etihad, having overcome them in the semi-finals last season on their way to winning the competition for the first time

Reuters Manchester Published 17.04.24, 10:39 AM
Arsenal players during a training session at London Colney on Tuesday, the eve of their Champions League quarter final second leg match against Bayern.

Arsenal players during a training session at London Colney on Tuesday, the eve of their Champions League quarter final second leg match against Bayern. Getty Images

While Manchester City midfielder Bernando Silva said he and his teammates are motivated by the possibility of winning their second consecutive treble, manager Pep Guardiola cautioned against dreaming too far ahead.

City host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday at the Etihad, having overcome them in the semi-finals last season on their way to winning the competition for the first time.

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They also lead the Premier League standings and are in the final four of the FA Cup.

“I am not going to say ‘don’t feel this’ to my players, but I have a different opinion. We are far away from those hypothetical dreams,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.

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

“I started to think of the treble last season only when we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final,” he added.

Guardiola’s team can book their spot in this year’s FA Cup final with a win over Chelsea in Saturday’s semi-final at Wembley. They also have a two-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League with six games remaining.

City captured the treble — Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League — for the first time last season to match Manchester United’s treble win in 1998-99. No team has won it in consecutive seasons and no English side has won it twice. Silva said being on the brink of history can drive the squad for the rest of the season.

“Obviously, it is an inspiration and motivation,” he said. “We want to create the legacy. We want four Premier Leagues in a row. We want the Champions League twice in a row and two trebles in a row.

“In one week we could be out of all the competitions. But we are fighting.”

Real Madrid and City slugged out a thrilling 3-3 draw in the first leg last week to leave the tie wide open.

City will have midfielder Kevin De Bruyne back after he sat out the match at the Bernabeu with an illness.

“When Kevin is present, everything is different because he is one of the best players of our generation,” Silva said. “When he is on a good day it’s difficult to stop him.”

Defender Kyle Walker is also available after returning to the bench for City’s 5-1 league thrashing of Luton Town on Saturday.

Former Barcelona player and manager Guardiola said he relished once again facing old rivals Madrid, who have an eight-point lead at the top of the LaLiga standings.

“Always has been and always will be (a big game),” he said. “It’s Real Madrid and in this competition it is always a big game. It’s special for me. Of course it is.”

Practical Tuchel

Bayern Munich have a slight edge over Arsenal in the Champions League given their rich history in the competition, but they still have to be at their best to beat them, coach Thomas Tuchel said on the eve of Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg.

Bayern have not gone beyond the quarters since winning their sixth European Cup in 2020, while Arsenal are yet to get their hands on the crown.

With the return leg finely poised at 2-2, the pressure will be on Tuchel’s team at the Allianz Arena, however, as Europe is their only chance of redemption in a season where they have been dethroned as German champions by Bayer Leverkusen.

“We have a slight advantage when you look at our experience in this competition. But to turn it into a real advantage, you also need a top performance,” Tuchel told reporters on Tuesday.

“They play a very attractive brand of football at the highest level. We did well in the first leg, but we’re only halfway through the tie. We need everything again and hope that playing at home will give us the boost we need.”

Bayern striker Harry Kane, who has scored 39 goals in all competitions in his debut campaign at the club, was determined to keep the fans dreaming of a victorious climax to the season.

“It has been a disappointing season in the league. Credit and congratulations to Leverkusen for what they’ve achieved,” Kane said.

“We haven’t achieved the standards we want. We have had better performances in the Champions League. We have a great opportunity to keep the season alive and keep some hope among the fans that we can achieve something special.”

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