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Man City: Pep Guardiola sets Champions League challenge as boss explains past early exits | Football | Sport

Pep Guardiola has challenged his players to show more mental toughness if they are to finally land the Champions League.

The Manchester City boss has admitted his squad have failed to translate domestic strength to Europe’s showpiece competition in his four years at the Etihad.

But, with the knockout stages once again beckoning, Guardiola maintained an improvement in their mentality could be the key to finally landing the big one.

“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,” he said.

“These little margins are the difference in the Champions League and we’re working on that. I really believe these situations is about the mentality.

“We’re good enough and we’re strong enough. In Europe teams don’t give you 20 chances. The players know this. We’ve spoken many times about it. But after creating chances you have to be solid, you cannot give away the goals we’ve given this season.

“It is about thinking, knowing what is dangerous is dangerous, being clinical, having a good mentality to score goals, to defend of course and that is why we have to improve.”

City entertain Serie A’s third-placed surprise package Atalanta at the Etihad on Tuesday night seeking to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group A.

And while victory would allow them to start planning for the knockout stages next year for the fourth time under Guardiola the pressure for City to win is growing.

City have made it no further than the quarter-final stages in the last two seasons.

They have gone out on goal difference twice in the last three campaigns – against Monaco in 2016-17 in the last 16 and against Tottenham in the quarter-finals last season.

On both occasions, Pep Guardiola was criticised for altering his approach to one or more of the legs of the knockout rounds.

Yet that is not a mistake he is about to repeat insisting that he will stick to what have made City the champions of England in future.

“I think the way we are really strong as a team has been built up from four seasons ago. 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.

“But it’s more for the fact that two times in the Champions League we went out on [away goals] and in both games we conceded a lot of goals.”

Guardiola looks to have got over a defensive crisis that saw him field Fernandinho and Rodri in central defence against Crystal Palace at the weekend with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones both fit again.

They could line up in a back four between Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo and the latter has every faith that Guardiola will eventually get it right in Europe with City.

“For me he is the best manager in football today,” Cancelo said. “I came here to learn from him. The aim is to win this competition since I was a child

“And Manchester City is one of the teams that can win the Champions League no doubt about it.”

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