Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City will beat Paris Saint-Germain to reach their first Champions League final on Tuesday – but warned that the semi-final second leg will be the most difficult game they will face.
City will face PSG at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday after beating the French champions 2-1 in Paris in the first leg last week.
This result means Guardiola is within reach of his first Champions League final since winning the competition with Barcelona in 2011, but he said: “In my experience, the semi-finals are always tough. .
“You play with the result of the first leg, you play with your mind on the final and sometimes you forget what you have to do – win the game you are playing.
“The semi-final second leg is always the most difficult – it’s always been that way. The final is completely different.”
Despite his undisputed status as one of the greatest managers of his generation, Guardiola has suffered a series of near-misses in the Champions League since winning the competition with Barca for the second time ten years ago.
The Spaniard has overseen three successive semi-finals during his time with Bayern Munich, while City suffered a 16-time loss followed by three straight quarter-final losses before finally reaching the last four this season.
Guardiola hopes his players can channel their previous Champions League disappointments to victory over PSG, saying: “I would like to feel that we have learned about our defeats but I don’t know how we are going to react – it’s still a mystery .
“The good thing about our job is that it’s incredibly unpredictable. It was disappointing, but life always gives you another opportunity, another challenge.
“I would love to say, ‘yes, we learned from that,’ but maybe tomorrow we’ll play a bad game. I don’t think so, but we could play a bad game and be out of the final.
“But what I’m thinking right now is that we’re going to have an amazing game and we are going to reach the final. If the others are better, I congratulate the opponent. But I have a feeling that we will. to do well.”
City were outmatched by PSG in the first half of the first leg and lost 1-0 in the interim, but a stellar performance in the second half saw them turn the tide with two crucial away goals.
But as City enter the home game with a clear advantage, Guardiola said: “In these games you’re not going to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half. I would love that, but it doesn’t. will not happen.
“You have to understand that it will be a big battle, a tough game with times to suffer, but I’m pretty sure we’ll react well and impose what we have to do.
“What we need to do is no different than what we’ve been doing in the last seven or eight months; go out there, play our game and win. In bad times, stay calm, grab the ball and try. to regain our momentum.
“How big will our good times be – that will be the difference. The desire to remember forever, we have to take a step forward and we will.”
Stones: Man City are ‘quietly confident’
John Stones said Manchester City felt “quietly confident” as they tried to secure a place in the Champions League final for the first time.
Speaking at City’s pre-match press conference, Stones said: “I think [we are] quietly confident – we must be. It’s a great opportunity for us as players and as a club, a chance to qualify for a Champions League final.
“We have to go where we left off. We are really confident and excited for the challenge ahead.”
Stones admits that City will have their work cut out for them to keep Neymar and – if he’s fit – Kylian Mbappe quiet, but he’s also wary of the rest of the squad.
He said: “It’s never easy who we’re up against. On big occasions, playing against two world-class players is exciting as defenders, to test yourself as defenders.
“But we have to keep the whole team quiet, not just these two.”
Stones added that there was no room for doubt in the team’s approach, saying: “I don’t even want to think about losing. We come into the game to win it, that’s our state of mind over the past five years, to go into every game to try to win. “