Champions League

Guardiola dreams of miracle, Klopp of holding City at bay

2018-04-10 14:29
Pep Guardiola (Getty Images)

Manchester - Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City are destined to win the Champions League one day, even if they fail to overcome a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg deficit against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Reds are sweating on the fitness of striker Mohamed Salah.

A hitherto spectacular second season under Guardiola for City has unravelled in the past week as they were thrashed at Anfield in the first leg, and then let a 2-0 lead slip with the chance to seal the Premier League title against Manchester United in a 3-2 derby defeat on Saturday.

Even if City go out, Guardiola could badly do with them winning at least the match to restore battered morale ahead of a tough league match with in-form Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend with the Premier League title theirs for the taking.

The trouble for Guardiola is even if Salah - who scored his 38th goal of the season in the first leg before limping off - is not able to play a role, Liverpool have enough firepower up front in the shape of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to hurt City.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Monday Salah was more of a 'yes' than a 'no' for the trip to the Etihad, though whether he plays will only be decided later on Tuesday.

More encouraging for Liverpool fans is that Guardiola has lost six times in the knockout stages and four of the teams who bested him went on to lift the trophy.

The Spaniard believes that were his team to pull off an extraordinary comeback it would take Abu Dhabi-backed City - who have only reached the last four of the competition once - to another level.

"I know we are judged on results, but on the performances my team is extraordinary. It is not comparable for many others, it's top," Guardiola, whose side still boast a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League, said.

"They are exceptional, so I will be close to them no matter what happens between now and the end of the season. It's a joy to be manager of this team, even three days ago the way we played."

'I'm never nervous'

One area of hope for Guardiola is that Liverpool's Achilles heel has been its defence although Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has added some steel since joining from Southampton.

The Dutch captain will be examined to the full at the Etihad, though, where Liverpool were thrashed 5-0 earlier in the season, albeit before Van Dijk joined from Southampton.

Klopp's men were also crushed 4-1 by Tottenham and involved in thrilling 3-3 draws at Arsenal and Sevilla as they were routinely torn apart on their toughest travels, before the addition of the tall Dutchman.

Van Dijk, though, says he is not nervous at all about the impending clash - indeed, if anything, the 26-year-old admits to being too relaxed.

"I always have been, sometimes a little too much," van Dijk told journalists.

"Sometimes that cost me back in the day. What we do as players is something you need to enjoy.

"I'm never nervous.

"I'm just excited. I think, 'Look where I am. Playing for the semi-finals of the Champions League with my team. Just enjoy it and love it.'"

Van Dijk will do well to remain so relaxed given he faces a City attack bolstered by the likes of Sergio Aguero, who missed the traumatic United defeat, and Kevin De Bruyne, who only came on as a second-half substitute.

If Guardiola is to seek inspiration in terms of a miraculous comeback, then United set him an example last Saturday of how quickly a match can turn on its head.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
AEK Athens v Ajax, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Viktoria Plzen, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Valencia, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v Benfica, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Manchester United v Young Boys, Old Trafford 22:00
Roma v Real Madrid, Stadio Olimpico 22:00
Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 22:00
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Atletico Madrid v Monaco, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 19:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Galatasaray, RZD Arena 19:55
Porto v Schalke 04, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
PSG v Liverpool, Parc des Princes 22:00
PSV v Barcelona, Philips Stadion 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge, Signal-Iduna-Park 22:00
Napoli v Crvena Zvezda, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale, Wembley Stadium 22:00
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