Pep Guardiola says injuries suffered by Manchester City in their Champions League win at Atletico Madrid left his hat-trick-hunting side in “big trouble” ahead of the break-in.
A goalless draw in the Spanish capital sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory and saw City stage a third semi-final in club history – against 13-time winners Real Madrid.
But with Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool looming, City’s progress has come at a price, with Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker forced into injury and Phil Foden needing a head bandage at the Wanda Metropolitano .
“We have big problems,” Guardiola said BT Sports. “We can’t forget that we played a tough game against Liverpool three days ago. We came here, we have a lot of injuries.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, but today we’re going to celebrate. It’s the third time in Manchester City’s history that we’ve reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, and it’s a big success for us to be there.”
Guardiola did not mention the severity of the injuries, while he also claimed he had “nothing to say” about the ugly scenes that marred his side’s progress on Wednesday night.
The match ended in resentment and bitterness with scuffles on the pitch and in the tunnel.
First, a melee involving numerous players from both sides broke out on the pitch after Felipe was sent off at Foden. Among the issues, Atletico defender Stefan Savic pulled the unused hair of City substitute Jack Grealish after the pair exchanged words. Felipe was expelled for his involvement.
The problems continued after the teams left the pitch, with the players having to be separated in the tunnel. Television images showed objects being thrown and the police reportedly intervened to restore order.
Asked about the incidents in his post-match press conference, Guardiola simply replied that he had ‘nothing to say’. Pressed further by the head injury Foden suffered in another poor challenge from Felipe in the first half, Guardiola said: “I’m not talking about the referees or the opponents either.”
There was also a suggestion that Guardiola threw liquid at him as he headed down the tunnel. He said, “Everyone has seen the action, but I have nothing to say.”
Guardiola preferred to focus on his players’ determined effort to claim a result amid fierce provocation and an intimidating atmosphere.
“They pushed us a lot,” Guardiola said. “Atletico were excellent in the second half and we forgot to play. We were in big trouble and they had chances to score.
“We had one or two clear chances in the first half but in the second half of the second leg they were much better. But at the same time we defended everything.
“We had to adapt. We couldn’t have the ball and we felt the pressure. We’re in the semi-finals and that’s an incredible achievement for our club.”
How the newspapers reacted to Atletico’s collapse
On a night when Atletico Madrid slipped out of the Champions League after a bad-tempered draw, the British media slammed Simeone’s side for their actions.
DailyMirror Sportswriter Mike Walters tweeted Wednesday night: “Imagine supporting a team led by Simeone, including Felipe and Savic, and actually wanting them to win. What a bunch of animals.”
Meanwhile, Daily Mail Football writer Jack Gaughan, who was at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, called Atleti’s actions “truly shameful” while Martin Samuel of the same newspaper called the Spanish side “bad losers”.
TalkSPORT host Adrian Durham added on Twitter: “Simeone’s Atleti are absolutely lawless. Glad they’re out,” while writer Paul Hayward added: “All that bluster and grunt and Atletico couldn’t score in both legs. Savic and Felipe: awful.”
However, there was a starkly different reaction to Atletico’s performance in the Spanish newspapers on Thursday morning, where Simeone’s side were praised for their display.
Brand went with the headline ‘the heart without the price’, adding that ‘Atletico tried all the way against a City team who played for nothing’, while AS wrote that “a great Atletico were one step away from forcing extra time against a shrunken City”.
In their game player notes, Brand also said ‘the world needs a leader like Savic’ following a performance which saw him spark a melee between the two groups of players by manhandling Foden, when he also appeared to be kicking head to Sterling and pull Grealish’s hair.
Manchester City match schedule:
To be confirmed: Wolves (a) premier league
April 16 – Liverpool (Wembley) FA Cup semi-finals
April 20 – Brighton premier leaguelive on Sky Sports
April 23 – Watford (h) premier league
April 26/27 – real Madrid Champions League SF first leg
April 30 – Leeds premier leaguelive on Sky Sports
May 3/4 – real Madrid SF Champions League second leg
May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – FA Cup Final *
May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Villa Aston (h) premier league
May 28 – Champions League Final *
* Subject to progress