"Eleven against eleven, one ball moving" - Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling pre Real Madrid presser
Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling spoke to the press ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola came across in a very philosophical mood, as he gave in depth answers to almost every question poised to the Catalan manager and Raheem Sterling seemed in good spirits, laughing and joking at times with the press.
"We arrive how we arrive. Different competitions, an honour to be here in a semi-final against top teams like Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Liverpool. They've been here many times, we have in recent years. It's an honour to be here."
"I'm sure they [Manchester City fans] will come and support us unconditionally. They'll do their best, hopefully we do our best to bring them close to us."
"This competition we were through against Real Madrid [in 2020] it was a tough two games, we were out in other games that were tight. The reality is the last decade we are there, semi-finals and finals [of the Champions League], and go through group stages. For us always I have the feeling in Barcelona and Bayern, you start to expect to be there. Now I feel how nice it is to be there with the best teams in Europe. Try to be ourselves, do two exceptional games to reach the final. We can do it. We have so much respect for Real Madrid, how good they are. It's an honour. You want to reach the final, like Liverpool and Villarreal, but never underestimate what we have done to be here."
"They [John Stones and Kyle Walker] are doubts, they didn't train last week, ten days, John since Brighton..."
"We have a training session today and see how the players are. Tonight, tomorrow, decide the line up. I wait for the training session to see how they feel. I'm sure players will play in positions they aren't used but they will do their best."
"The two games against Sporting - first game against Atletico we played to not concede. The second leg we couldn't have conceded, they were better. We have to defend well."
"[Karim] Benzema scores lot of goals in his career, fantastic player, we defend well, we will have to defend and create chances to score."
"If we have to compete with their [Real Madrid's] history, we don't have any chance. Speaks for itself. We have desire to compete with them. It's a chance to improve, we want to try it. Try, suffer when we suffer, stick together. Try to attack best as possible. Same if we play Bayern or Barcelona or teams many times in this position. Before the last decade we were never here [in the Champions League semi-finals], reaching the final is always a good lesson for us."
"It's normal [higher expectations], when you don't win Premier League and Sergio [Aguero] scores a goal and you win more, you want another one. Try to win the Premier League again, a big success. Of course we want more, fans want it and us too. We have to win everything, play fantastic well, score 4-5 goals - that's not the reality. It's a tough business for everyone. Everyone wants to do well. When you start the Champions League season and [someone] say you'll reach the semi-final, [I would] sign right now. PSG, Leipzig, always difficult. Every game we win in the group I'm happy. Once we are here, we're focussed to beat Real Madrid but I wouldn't say if we don't reach the final it's not good. I respect my players and the opponent."
"History is there, we can't change it, but it's eleven against eleven and one ball moving. The players decide their decision making. We play against players in this position many times. Beyond reaching finals and winning. There are other issues we have and they [the opposition] don't [have]. You can imagine a plan but it's eleven against eleven, the quality, how strong they are, it will make a difference. This game is players, Carlo [Ancelotti] and myself won't win."
"From my experience in Spain, always there is scrutiny. He's [Vinicius Junior] just 21, settled perfectly, played regularly, It speaks for itself. You're young and the pressure in these teams to win and win. Real Madrid, we try to be here as well. We don't play for granted, we play people because they deserve it. Otherwise 5 or 6 players play instead. You have to show it in training. That's why big clubs are always there, it's a culture. We are learning, growing. I came from Barcelona, here we try to build that culture. You have to win every game, fight for every game. [Real] Madrid don't buy players without the quality to play in the team."
"As far as being manager, personally my accomplishment will never be accomplished, I'll have another dream to reach. We decide together with the club, everyone says good, bad, accomplished or not. Up to you, not a problem, will be other players in future and I try to do it again. Nothing changed in the years I won or didn't win. I try to do my best, bring the team awareness we can do it. We can beat an opponent like Madrid, stick together. This is the motive."
"The fact they [Real Madrid] have been here many times, always I said two times in the row being in [Champions League] semi-finals is so difficult. Many good teams not here, one day we won't be here. So demanding, you have to be so precise. I told players enjoy this moment, training. We don't know if we'll be back in this position. Enjoy it and try to be ourselves in good moments and bad moments."
"He's [Gabriel Jesus] not going to play right back! I express that he could. Vinicius, Gabriel could be a good battle but he won't play there. Maybe for a few minutes but no."
"Yeah [the Champions League is the holy grail] every season it's always a challenge. It's the one we've not got our hands on and we're focussing on."
"At this period it would be selfish to speak of any contract situation, we'll see how it goes."
"It's a special competition, every young player wants to be here. Every time I play I do my best, the music and atmosphere is always special."
"Like anything [being the top English Champions League goal scorer], it's onto the next thing after a debut, first goal, always try to do better. Every time I come in I try to improve. I always help the team, if I can get records even better."
"As a forward, I want to be playing, scoring, assisting. Contributing is massive, that's how you get confidence. I'm happy to get a part of the team."
"They [Real Madrid] have scored some vital late goals but we have players who can play in high pressure games. We'll be fine over the two legs."
"I'm playing and contributing a lot more [than last season], in a good mood, good spirit. We're in a Champions League semi-final, fighting for the title, so I'm in a great spirit."
"I wouldn't say I've had to change [my role], it's been the same from starting here. The squad has changed, but I've not had to change my game."
"It comes down to tomorrow night, we prepare mentally, physically. What's happened previously doesn't matter."
"It's a team full of quality players [here at Manchester City], it makes me thrive. If they're performing, I try to keep playing, scoring. Sometimes you have to understand there's a lot of good players in the team."
"[Karim Benzema is] a top player, he's played at a high level for such a long time. Incredible professional."
"We know not just this season but previous seasons how good they [Real Madrid] are in this competition. All that happened in the past, we've got to prepare right, make sure we're mentally ready for the challenge. We can't focus on their previous games, only focus on us."
Written by: @coIgcra
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