Pep Guardiola: Manchester City boss highlights player ‘we have to control’ in Real Madrid clash

Held to a 3-3 draw against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, Manchester City will welcome los Blancos to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday as the fight for a semifinal berth heats up.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday ahead of the decider, Pep Guardiola insisted that playing Real Madrid ‘always has been, and always will be’ a big game. Expectations are high, with fans keen to see the Cityzens edge closer to repeating their Istanbul success of last season.

The Spaniard insisted that the pressure is still on for his side, and that ‘if you think ‘okay, we’ve done it already’, we won’t have this piece of hunger to compete against the teams.’

‘It’s true the fact we won it – we feel better, comfortable, but you have to take the right energy. I think our people at home will help us a lot, we sold out everything and we need a lot of noise. We need a lot of presence of them, especially in bad moments.’

Guardiola’s men are still capable of completing a historic ‘double-treble’ this season, with the Cityzens also preparing for a crunch tie in the Emirates FA Cup semifinal when they face Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.

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The Spaniard opened up to reporters about his mentality, admitting that ‘honestly, I started to think about the treble when we beat United in the FA Cup final last season. After, I said okay, we are now one game away to do something exceptional – but the success for me this season still we are there.’ 

‘After winning the treble to still be in that position with five weeks remaining, being in contention to be there, is incredible. But at the same time we are here, [with the chance] extend this chance one more week. It is what we try to do tomorrow, Saturday and the next games.’

With such important fixtures coming just days apart, Guardiola admitted that he is used to the congested calendar that comes alongside playing in the latter stages of European competitions.

‘It’s better to be [playing] Wednesday and Saturday than to not be here [in these competitions], so I will not complain for one second about that. It is what it is.’

‘The important [thing] is to take the right decisions, and that’s what you think about more than the fact of work because last season we played against Madrid, last week we played [them again]. We know each other. They know what we know. We have to be wary of the surprises Carlo [Ancelotti] has done in the first game and right mentality, ready to suffer.’

Jude Bellingham is now well past the days of being considered a surprise package, and Guardiola piled on the praise for the Englishman. ‘From the beginning, he was huge in terms of goals, in terms of presence and many things at his age. I think he handles the pressure without a problem and has a good mentality. He’s an exceptional player. What can I say? We have to control him,’ he added.