— Sports

Guardiola a ‘failure’ if City loses in Champions League

Pep Guardiola expects to be labeled a “failure” if Manchester City doesn’t reach the semifinals of the Champions League for the fifth straight year since he joined the English club.

City holds a 2-1 lead over Borussia Dortmund heading into the second leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday, so the team has its best chance of reaching the semifinals for the first time under Guardiola.

The Spanish coach hasn’t won the competition – or even reached the final – since capturing the second of his titles with Barcelona in 2011, with critics blaming him for overthinking his tactics in the big knockout matches at not only City but when in charge of Bayern Munich from 2013-16.

“This is a business, and business is business. Business is winning,” said Guardiola, who was animated at a news conference on Tuesday. “If we don’t win, I will be a failure. If we win, it will be ‘Oh, how good is Pep.’”

Since Guardiola joined in 2016, City was eliminated by Monaco in the last 16 before losing in the quarterfinals in three straight seasons to Liverpool, Tottenham, and Lyon.

The City was the favorite on each occasion.

Champions League

Ilkay Gundogan joined City at the same time as Guardiola, and the German midfielder believes the team’s domestic dominance in that period has its drawbacks when it comes to playing against tougher opponents and with bigger pressure in the Champions League.

Put, the City is not used to having to respond to setbacks.

“We need to learn that it’s normal to struggle,” Gundogan said. “At this stage, playing against the best teams in Europe, it’s normal. Everyone has quality, and it’s also normal to concede a goal.

thing that was a little bit missing.”

City showed some backbone in the first leg, responding to conceding an equalizer by Marco Reus in the 84th minute by scoring a winner in the 90th through Phil Foden.

Indeed, Gundogan feels this season could be different for City because the team’s improved stability in defense has led to only two goals being conceded in nine games so far this campaign.

“I feel like we are much more stable now, especially defensively. We are defending quite well, and I think the more you proceed in the competition, the more important that gets,” he said. “It gives you a safe feeling when you know that your defensive line is working great, your goalkeeper is great, and you are working as a team defensively well.”

That does not mean City will simply head to Dortmund looking to defend its lead. Guardiola’s intention, as usual, is to win the game.

“If you think in this game about the consequences or the goals you must score or can concede, you forget what you must do,” Guardiola said.

Gundogan agreed, adding: “For us, the best case is always going into a game feeling we want to win. Defending a result, I don’t feel it fits us. It’s the way we are as players. It’s not the way we play as a team.”

The city is still going for an unprecedented quadruple of major trophies this season, having reached the final of the English League Cup, the semifinals of the FA Cup, and taken an 11-point lead in the Premier League.

Still, despite all the domestic trophies he has won at City – two league titles, three League Cups, and one FA Cup – Guardiola cannot be sure what his players’ mental state will be in this latest Champions League knockout match.

“Right now, I don’t know. Honestly,” he said. “About the controlled emotions, whatever happens in the game, the many instances, I don’t know. They are human beings. They have feelings.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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