Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City v Borussia Monchengladbach: No reason why we cannot emulate Man United's 2008 heroics - Pep Guardiola

Man City v Bor M'gladbach, Champions League Group C: Etihad Stadium, tonight, 7.45pm

By Ian Herbert

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has insisted that winning the Champions League and Premier League should not be beyond any English club - because Manchester United managed it in 2008.

City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak and chief executive Ferran Soriano believe that the demands of the Premier League make it virtually impossible to compete on both fronts, with the lack of help in domestic fixture scheduling exacerbating the problem.

But, as he prepares to lead his new side into the competition against Borussia Monchengladbach tonight, Guardiola asked "why not?" to the question of whether a team could win both. He said he could give no reason why British sides have struggled in recent years.

Guardiola, who is expected to bring Sergio Aguero back into the line-up after Saturday's victorious Manchester derby, said: "United won the Premier League and arrived in the final of the Champions League against Barcelona twice and against Chelsea, so why not?

"Why can't it be done? I would like to know why. Why should we not try to win the games? Why not? It is physical, yes, but you can find the same games in Spain or Germany.

"Maybe I will answer again when we arrive in February, March or April and the players are tired or have injuries but after four Premier League games, why can't you compete every three days?"

Guardiola, who revealed that there had been "no time" to meet Jose Mourinho and drink wine after Saturday's win at Old Trafford, has reached the semi-final of the Champions League in each of his seven seasons in management.

Though City's performance rate in Europe did improve as they reached the semi-finals last season, the ponderous pace of their game has been one of their problems on the continent and Guardiola has been bold, dropping Yaya Toure from his squad, which will rectify that.

New statistical data on last season's tournament showed that his Bayern side had the highest average possession - 67 per cent - and that is also likely to be reflected in City's new European style.

Raheem Sterling, whose form has been revived under Guardiola, said that he had been motivated by the manager's reassuring telephone call to him before the season and his simple instructions.

"He makes it simple and shows you how it is, exactly where he wants you on the pitch, and says the rest is down to you, so there isn't really a better feeling than that," Sterling said.

The midfielder said he had also learned to shut out criticism. "I simply play football and don't listen. You take a stroll and you look at the app on your phone to be nosey. But now I don't pay any attention. I simply leave it alone," he said.

Guardiola said that Andre Schubert's Monchengladbach - European Cup finalists against Liverpool in Rome 40 years ago next summer - were a "brave" side who sometimes played three at the back, attacked in numbers and had always made life difficult for him at Bayern.

He named midfielder Christoph Kramer, Brazilian winger Raffael and Thorgan Hazard - brother of Chelsea's Eden - as three prime threats. It may be a four-man defence at the Etihad.

The potential for sides like City to aspire to win the tournament was clear, he insisted.

He said: "No doubt about it. When I see Liverpool, Chelsea, United, Tottenham and their players, all of them have the level to play in the Champions League against good teams."

Belfast Telegraph


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