"We aren't going to defend anything we won here, try to win!"- Pep Pre Dortmund Press Conference
With City holding a slender 2-1 advantage heading to Germany to face Dortmund, Pep Guardiola spoke to the media to discuss Dortmund and whether the club has more experience this year than previous years, whilst Ilkay Gundogan also spoke to discuss the game.
First up was Gundogan, who was not surprised by Dortmund's impressive showing in Manchester.
"I wasn't surprised, I still follow them a lot and watch as many games as possible. I know they have a lot of quality in the squad, individually, amazing, fast players. I know they can beat, on a good day, every good team in Europe. I've just watched their game in Munich when they were winning 2-0, they played really well and I knew they were capable of controlling big teams."
Erling Haaland assisted the visitors' equaliser and vital away goal at the Etihad and Ilkay had plenty of praise for the Norweigan striker.
"He's a great talent, an exciting player. Scores a lot, physically strong, quick, determined. He goes into the spaces that may hurt but he hurts every team he faces. The fact his numbers are already outstanding, in the league and in Europe, is incredible. The fact he's so young shows he'll have a great future. I don't know him, but it seems he has the right mindset to climb to the top."
I know they can beat, on a good day, every good team in Europe.
The Champions League and top-level football have lost that spark this season due to games behind closed doors, and Ilkay was asked about the difference and what's changed
"The atmosphere, there's not really a connection between fans and players. In the games that can be quite important, when you may face difficult periods in the game. A crowd is always able to give you another push when you're in a bad moment and when you're at home it's able to give the opponent a different feeling. As an example, going to Dortmund knowing there's no crowd it feels it's a disadvantage for them, I played there five years and know how incredible their support is and how loud it can be. For them knowing there's no crowd, same in the first leg at our stadium, there's something missing. We can't wait to have fans back."
City have stalled at the quarter-final stage of this competition in the past three seasons and Gundogan stressed the importance of moving forward.
"For me, it's important to take the next step, not just the experiences we had in the last few years, but also I have expectations of myself and my teammates and I know we have a great team and are capable of going into the semi-finals. We should have been there earlier in the last few seasons but we were lacking something, individual mistakes which led to goals and it's tough. In the Spurs game, we conceded three goals, Liverpool two goals. Especially when you concede these goals at home it's not easy running behind that. I feel we are much more stable at the moment this season, especially defensively, the more you proceed in this competition the more important it gets. It gives you a safe feeling when you know your defence and goalkeeper are working very well. Combined with the feeling we know we're always able to score it's a great potential."
Ilkay was then asked what the worst thing about living so close to Guardiola was, with the pair living in the same apartment block.
"There's nothing bad, maybe when you lose you don't want to see him in the building! Our boss knows when you're in your home or private space he leaves you alone. It's not that I never see him, but he knows it's also private time and when we come to work we're focused. When we're at home we're relaxing and trying to forget football and spend time with loved ones."
"There's nothing bad, maybe when you lose you don't want to see him in the building!
City lost to Leeds on Saturday and Ilkay was asked if that was a wake-up call.
"Maybe it was a warning for us. If it turns out to be like that, we will know after the game tomorrow, I'll take that defeat. Of course, we went into the game to win, it wasn't our ambition to get a point or focus on Dortmund, that wasn't the case at all. We still have games in the league to win the league. Nothing is over yet, now it's a different team in a different competition. After the game tomorrow we'll focus on other competitions."
Ilkay was asked how important it is for Guardiola to win the Champions League with City, but he stressed it was the same importance as it is for the players.
"The same importance for the manager as the players. I'm not sure if there's anyone who won the Champions League before. It's a great competition to be part of, growing up I watched the Champions League with the family, it was like a festival. For me, it's also the highest level you can play football and that's why I love the competition. For me, it's something I want to achieve and we have a really good chance with this team but it's not just about the chances you have to take them. We go step by step, we failed in the past, but we know a team of our quality will have chances and this is another chance. We try to do our best, the players, staff, to go as far as possible."
And on the imminent return of fans, starting with the league cup final next week:
"It's exciting, we had one game this season with fans at Southampton. I must admit after such a long while it was weird to have them back even if it was just 2000. It was a weird feeling again, we need to get used to it again but not just for the people coming in but the atmosphere."
Gundogan was also asked about the exit to Spurs in 2019 and if the blues learn from the bad moments.
"I feel sometimes this is the case, we need to learn it's normal to struggle. In that stage, playing against the best teams in Europe it's normal, everyone has quality. It's normal to concede a goal, we're not used to it running behind a goal. Conceding or struggling, we're used to dominating games and having possession. But it's normal in Champions League and Premier League there are games it might not be that easy and fluently everything on the pitch. Mistakes are normal. Learning to deal with it is the only thing that was missing when you speak of those Tottenham games, conceding the goals away was unnecessary, but dealing with the situation at that time. Just dealing with those situations is something we might need to learn still, these stages will show it now. It's something we need to accept."
Just dealing with those situations is something we might need to learn still, these stages will show it now. It's something we need to accept."
Gundogan was asked if City are heading to Germany to win, or defend the lead.
I believe we can go anywhere and win, it's necessary for the quality we have and the football we play. For us, the best case to go into a game is to win. Defending a result doesn't fit us, or the way we play as a team. We should try every single game to win. That's what we are used to, talking about the question before, that's why we will handle the game in Germany the same we did here or the games in the past few weeks."
Gundogan also spoke about his experiences of reaching the final with Dortmund in 2013, when they lost to Bayern 2-1 in the final.
"Apart from injuries that were frustrating, on the pitch probably my biggest defeat in my career so far. And why I want to go back to the final and win the trophy. It was a great experience, we were on a great run, we played incredible football. When I now think about it I get goosebumps. Defeats are part of football, you accept and learn from them. Even though it was a sad day, I remember the day, the way to the final, it was a great experience."
Gundogan was asked about City's improved defence and if that gives the team more confidence to go forward in the other two-thirds of the pitch.
"A part of that might be the case but also the way we build up now with the ball movements from the goalkeeper to defenders to midfield is fluent. I don't feel I need to get involved as much as the last few years. Rodri, Ruben, John, Aymer are really fluent. Automatic movements that are part of our game, sometimes I have the freedom to run in between the lines or behind the defence to be present in the opponents' box. It gives me the opportunity to be in the positions where I have the chance to score."
Gundogan was finally asked if Gabriel Jesus can succeed the departing Sergio Aguero.
"I think for Gabby there are no limits. He already did great the years he is here. I don't know if it has an influence on him or us that Sergio is leaving in the game Gabby plays. What I know is he brings everything to be a world-class striker. He's already done great, a great teammate. Still young with the potential to improve. He's already playing really well, he's committed to the team, to his game. For him, the future is very bright."
Guardiola was first asked about whether no fans gave City an advantage in Dortmund.
"I don't know, a long time we play without spectators. Would be easier here to play with fans. We are used to playing without spectators."
And on fans at the Carabao Cup final:
"It's the first step if the Government say we can do it, good news. 2000 is not much but it's the first step. Hopefully in the future will be back to normality but always follow the instructions for the government and the scientists."
Pep was asked what he learnt from seeing Haaland live but said he's focused on the team and not the individual.
"We analyse Dortmund as a team, not just one player. We knew his quality. We try to do what we have done many times, to win the game. We won the first, we go to try and win. I don't know what will happen, but we go to win."
Pep was asked about how big a mental test it is to reach the next stage.
"I would say is a pleasure to be here again, next season we have already qualified for the CL again. Pleasure to be here, we train, fly tomorrow, focus to do a good game. We are looking forward. Many things can happen, nothing is guaranteed. We had a good result, we don't defend, everything to win."
Guardiola was asked if the team are better equipped to deal with setbacks this season and can stay calm in the bad moments.
"If we win, the people say yes, if we lose people say no. The emotions in a game, many circumstances happen. They are human beings, everybody forgets. We do what we do all season, analyse, read it, do what to do to win the game. If we want to win we have to go for it, the way we have done many times this season. Sometimes not good but the intention was always there and we will do it tomorrow. You need to control your moments in this good way. I didn't say anything special, we go, analyse, each one to be a leader in the game. The guy who feels more comfortable to take a lead, the guys who are more nervous okay be simple be calm. We need 11 players and substitutions. It's a football game, there will be chances, they have scored in last 27 games. You have to score goals, be effective."
Pep was asked how difficult it is to manage all the different permutations of the game.
"If you think of the consequences or goals you have to score or concede, you forget what you have to do. You focus on what you have to do in the game, the plan we have to execute it. After the quality of players will do the rest. Will be better they don't score and we win, but in the CL you always have a chance. We have weapons to score, they have weapons to score. We go there, we aren't going to defend anything we won here, control their quality, try to win the game."
We have weapons to score, they have weapons to score. We go there, we aren't going to defend anything we won here, control their quality, try to win the game."
City have an intense fixture list coming up with Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend before Aston Villa and the Carabao Cup final next week, then UCL semi-finals also waiting to be sandwiched in should the blues make them. Pep was asked about the congestion and a potential headache it gives the boss.
"After 27 victories in 29 games if I don't trust the players we have a big problem. I would be crazy. Tomorrow we can win or lose. What we have done so far we deserve to be where we are now. We know if we win we go through or lose we are out. In the Premier League we need 3 wins and a draw to be champion because we expect United to win seven in a row. If we go out we will be disappointed but we have another chance, life is like this. If you fight you get another opportunity. We are going to try. We lose against Lyon, we were better, we are out. We are fighting for four competitions, especially the PL. We are already qualified for the CL, 11 years in a row, never happened before. That is fantastic. Now is the time for another step, the players want it. They were sad when we didn't get to the semifinals but nobody will give it to us, we have to do it. Nobody gives you the semifinals, we have to do it in 95 minutes if we don't do mistakes like against Lyon when we give them three goals. I'm so excited to travel to Germany, to try to do it."
Pep Guardiola last won the Champions League ten years ago, with Barcelona, and he was asked what lessons he's learnt since.
"Maybe, important maybe is in ten years all the time I am in quarter-finals and semi-finals. I didn't win the CL, WE won the CL, I didn't play. I didn't win it with Barcelona, they won it. I was there to have the idea. If I retire now what happens in my career I didn't expect, I'm grateful for the clubs and players I had. This is words that makes me so grateful and happy. This is a business to win. If you don't win I am a failure and if you win, it's how good is Pep. We won 27 of 29 and I rotate 28 games. The first time we lose you tell me why I rotate the team. Hopefully I can make the right decisions to make them feel comfortable on the pitch."
All quotes as quoted from Manchester Evening News.