It’s a decade since Pep Guardiola gained the Champions League.
If that already feels an absurdly very long time for somebody extensively feted as the best energetic soccer supervisor, think about that Guardiola hasn’t even reached the ultimate throughout these 10 years regardless of main the highest groups in Spain, Germany and England in that interval.
So, can his newest iteration at Manchester Metropolis — a relentless, record-shattering group closing in on one other English Premier League title — finish the wait?
Guardiola, no less than in public, is making an attempt to not get caught up within the hype.
“It’s nothing particular, nothing totally different,” Guardiola mentioned of the Champions League on Tuesday, a day earlier than Metropolis performs Borussia Moenchengladbach within the first leg of the spherical of 16.
Pushed repeatedly concerning the significance of the Champions League — certainly, for instance, it’s greater than the English League Cup? — Guardiola used the identical outdated mantra, in a transparent try to take the strain off each him and Metropolis.
“We’re going to play the sport tomorrow like we performed the final video games, and I might say the entire season in all competitions,” he mentioned. “Nothing particular. It’s a soccer recreation. Ninety minutes.
“We’re going to do an excellent recreation, to attempt to proceed and get an excellent end result, and afterward take into consideration West Ham (within the Premier League), Saturday, 12:30. That’s the goal. The identical course of mentally.”
It’s comprehensible why Guardiola is making an attempt to maintain a lid on expectations, contemplating the ache Metropolis has gone by means of making an attempt to grow to be European champion for the primary time after years of heavy spending beneath its Abu Dhabi possession. Because the Spaniard arrived in 2016, Metropolis has been eradicated by Monaco within the final 16, Liverpool then Tottenham within the quarterfinals after which — maybe most disappointingly — Lyon in a one-legged quarterfinal final season.
Guardiola has been accused of overthinking his techniques for knockout video games, like when he modified formation to match Lyon’s in August — serving solely to undermine the strengths of his personal group as a result of he was preoccupied by a extra restricted opponent, no less than on paper.
On Tuesday, Guardiola hinted that such overthinking may be a factor of the previous.
“We’re going to put together the sport like a standard recreation,” he mentioned. “We’re going to deal with Moenchengladbach as a group like now we have carried out in opposition to Arsenal, like in opposition to Liverpool, like Everton, like in opposition to Tottenham (in latest Premier League matches).
“We’re not going to vary completely something — little particulars to adapt just a little what they’re, nevertheless it’s not totally different to what we do more often than not within the Premier League.”
Giving further hope that this lastly may be Guardiola’s — and certainly Metropolis’s — season is a protection that was the tightest of all of the groups within the group stage, conceding only one objective in six video games, and proving virtually impenetrable domestically.
Throughout a 13-match successful run within the Premier League which has earned the group a 10-point lead with 13 video games remaining, Metropolis has let in simply three targets. It’s solely seven targets conceded in 25 video games in all competitions since Metropolis was final defeated on Nov. 21 — at Tottenham 2-0.
The offseason signing of Portugal middle again Ruben Dias from Benfica has been big, his influence being in comparison with that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool. Like Van Dijk, Dias — regardless of being simply 23 — is a pure chief and a chilled affect to these round him.
Fellow middle again John Stones has clearly benefitted from the presence of Dias and is in the perfect type of his profession. Attacking full again Joao Cancelo has additionally been providing a brand new dimension to the group along with his place sense and creativity.
“It’s full credit score to our supervisor,” Metropolis midfielder Ilkay Gundogan mentioned on Tuesday. “He adjusted the correct issues on the proper time. He noticed that one thing was fallacious, one thing was a bit lacking and adjusted a few issues by way of how we defend and the way we play with the ball.
“That’s why he’s the perfect supervisor on the planet. It’s unimaginable. I by no means thought, to be sincere, in December about the place we at the moment are in February.”
Guardiola’s disappointing latest report within the Champions League stretches again to earlier than his time at Metropolis, when he was eradicated within the semifinals in all three seasons he coached Bayern Munich (2014-16).
Each of his Champions League titles got here with Barcelona, in 2009 and ’11.