City told to sharpen up as they take on Atalanta in the Champions League | Football
Pep Guardiola has pointed to Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final defeat to Tottenham last season as evidence that they must be more clinical if they are to become European champions for the first time.
City play Atalanta at the Etihad Stadium in Tuesday night, having taken six points from three games. Yet after the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, Guardiola said his team were “not ready” to win the European Cup, having failed to move beyond the quarter-finals under him.
It was put to the City manager that this may seem odd given the £500m spend on players he has overseen since becoming manager in summer 2016.
He said: “I answered this question so many times. We are going to try. If we don’t win, we will try again next year. I never played one game as a player or manager thinking I cannot win. At the same time, I played every game thinking I can’t lose so I don’t know. We try from day one until the last day.”
To underline his point that City can be wasteful in the penalty box, Guardiola used the defeat by Spurs in the last eight as an example of how his side have to be more focused.
“Thinking, knowing what is dangerous is dangerous, being clinical, a good mentality to score goals, defend, of course, and that is why we have to improve,” he said. “I think in the Champions League teams don’t have 20 chances. You have chances and the players know you have to play good to create a lot of chances. After that, we have to be strong up-front. When we have one against one, against the keeper in the six-yard box and the penalty box, we have to score. If not it is more difficult in this competition against teams from the top level.
“I am very confident and have got full trust in my team. So far we haven’t been very strong in the box. We have made a number of mistakes we shouldn’t make at this level.
“Two times in the Champions League we went out on goal difference [against Tottenham and Monaco] and in both games we conceded a lot of goals. In this competition, you play against incredible players and if you give some team in one moment a metre, they will score. We have to know that.
“These little margins are sometimes the difference and we’re working on that. I believe that kind of situation is about the mentality. For example, we scored four here against Tottenham [last season], five goals against Monaco [three seasons ago] but we conceded a lot.”
In the first leg at Tottenham, Guardiola utilised a more defensive strategy in the 1-0 defeat, only to be edged out on away goals after a thrilling second leg that saw Raheem Sterling’s late goal disallowed by VAR. He did the same the previous year when losing 3-0 at Liverpool in the competition, when City were unable to overturn the deficit. Yet he claimed he is still reluctant to change his approach for one-off matches.
“I don’t like for one specific game to change something,” he said. “But sometimes you have injuries, you have problems, you have a smell from the team and you have to do it.”