‘Quirky’ plan against Real?
City shudder at Guardiola’s destructive genius
Manchester City are favorites against Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League – or is Josep Guardiola coaching again? The eternal accusation of “overthinking” reappears. And it confronts the Catalan with an enigmatic idea.
Josep Guardiola just can not hear it anymore. Manchester City’s team manager only faces the perpetual accusation that he regularly trains the big games with sarcasm. “I always think too much in the Champions League,” he said recently, smiling mockingly, “I love inventing stupid tactics.” Of course, this was not meant seriously – and yet the Catalan can not get rid of the stigma of “overthinking”. Will he also do so in the semi-final’s first match against record winners Real Madrid with top striker Karim Benzema on Tuesday (21.00 on Amazon Prime and in the live ticker on ntv.de) exaggerate? In Manchester, there are fears that Guardiola will unnecessarily jeopardize the possible dream final against Liverpool.
The Catalan, wrote “Evening News”, is working on a “quirky” idea: Striker Gabriel Jesus, who scored only four times against Watford FC and was compared by Guardiola to the nine-player legend Christo Stojtschkow, could face staffing problems on defensive aid out “If Gabriel has to play right back, he will play right back, no problem,” said Guardiola, shrugging.
The devil often gambled away
That the 51-year-old likes to take chances tactically is long gone and sufficiently proven. In the Champions League final in 2021, he managed without a real six and regular left-back Joao Cancelo. His representative Oleksandr Zinchenko let Chelsea’s Kai Havertz escape the victory goal. The previous season, the Catalan was shipwrecked in the quarter-final against Lyon with a back three. In 2019, he sacrificed his best man Kevin De Bruyne in the same round against Tottenham – and failed. 2018 was also the final stop in the round of 16 – also because Guardiola surprisingly let İlkay Gündoğan play on the left wing against Liverpool and thus undermined the statics of the city game.
Guardiola has won the championship three times with City since joining in 2016, but it’s been a long time since he last won the Champions League. He did so in 2009 and 2011 with FC Barcelona. The now 51-year-old then failed at FC Bayern, just as he did with the English. Real already have “a few trophies in the closet,” Guardiola said of Real’s 13 trophies only in the top class. This should also be an attempt to push the role of favorites to coach Carlo Ancelotti’s team. But the balance of power has long since changed.
“The important thing is that City are now on par with a team like Real Madrid,” Carlos Tevez said in an interview on the Manchester club’s website. The ex-pro sees it as a big step forward and can see no reason why the English should be afraid of Madrid. City have invested a lot of money in recent years to finally reach the top in Europe.
“This is a brutal team”
Does it work this time? Well, Guardiola is apparently already planning big things. “It would be boring if I always played the same thing,” Guardiola replied to critics in early April, as he had to adapt to the opponent after all. After all: In the quarterfinals of 2020, Guardiola eliminated the Royals (2: 1/2: 1). Also this time he hopes for “a special evening” and demanded, “We should enjoy it and give all that is in our soul.” But on the other hand, the big ones are Real and Benzema. “Hell,” City-pro Rodri said, “this guy is crazy in every fight. We have to be careful!”
While Manchester is only in the semi-finals for the third time, Madrid is in the top four for the 30th time. Along the way, the team around ex-national player Toni Kroos eliminated top teams like Paris St. Germain and Guardiola’s bogeyman, Chelsea. In addition to Casemiro in the sixth, defense chief David Alaba is also injured, but Gündoğan warns against negligence: “It’s a brutal team.”
And that supported the royals at least a little in their dress rehearsal, which succeeded with a 3-1 victory over Osasuna, but the superstar Benzema missed two penalty kicks. The Frenchman had scored the decisive goal in the second round of the quarter-finals, thus ensuring that the defending champions Chelsea were eliminated. In the 3-1 victory in the first match, the striker even scored three times even in London.