Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City cannot compete with Real Madrid’s European pedigree, but believes they can write a new chapter in the club’s history against the Spanish giants in the Champions League semi-finals.
Real Madrid, who play City in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, is the most successful team in European Cup history, having won the trophy 13 times.
In contrast, City, who have dominated English domestic football for the past decade, reached the Champions League final for the first time last year, losing to Chelsea.
City and Real met in the semi-finals in 2016, with the Spaniards winning 1-0 on aggregate, but City avenged that defeat with a last-16 victory in 2020.
“We wouldn’t have a chance if we had to compete with history,” Pep Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference on Monday. “Their track record speaks for itself.”
“We must have a strong desire to compete with them.” Playing against Real Madrid is an incredible challenge. We’d like to give it a shot. We need to suffer together, stick together, and try to attack when we have the ball.
“It would be the same if we faced Bayern Munich or Barcelona, two teams that have been here before.” We weren’t here a decade ago, but now we are. It teaches us valuable lessons for the future.”
Guardiola emphasized the Real Madrid players’ experience, many of whom have won multiple Champions League titles.
“We play against players who have been in this position a lot of times,” he explained.
“That’s why they have things that we may still lack.” But I’m not sure if there are any things we have that they don’t. “In the end, it’s 11 v 11.”
Despite the pressure, the City manager urged his players to enjoy the occasion.
“Being in the semi-finals is fantastic,” he said. “One day, because it’s so demanding, we won’t be here — look at the big teams who aren’t here.”
“I tell the players, ‘enjoy that moment.'” You never know if we’ll be back here at some point.”
Guardiola stated on Tuesday that he would make a final decision on the fitness of defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones, admitting the pair were “doubts.”
Suspended Joao Cancelo will miss the game.