Pep Guardiola has aimed a swipe at clubs that do “crazy things” to win the Champions League as the Manchester City head coach defended the club’s recent record in the competition. The Catalan is preparing his side for the first leg of their semi-final tie with Real Madrid knowing that the competition that has eluded him so far, but Guardiola insists he prefers the club’s stable approach to winning silverware than their rivals’.
It is the third year in the row that City have made the last four of Europe’s premier competition, having lost in the semi-finals in 2021-22 and in the final the previous year. Guardiola has also not won the Champions League since 2011 despite his enormous success at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.
And while Guardiola accepts they were not good enough before, he has defended the Premier League title contenders’ approach to the competition – as well as taking a dig at the rivals’ approach.
“There are clubs who do crazy things to win the Champions League. Being stable is the most important thing,” he told reporters in a news conference.
“Winning it is important. We wanted it last year but Barcelona had to take a lot of time to win it. The important thing is we are trying to get better every year. In the Premier League, it is so difficult [just] to qualify for Champions League.”
Guardiola did not mention any clubs in particular but it may have been a coded message to Chelsea, who sacked Graham Potter having reached the quarter-finals, only for caretaker boss Frank Lampard to guide the Blues to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Madrid.
City are chasing an incredible Treble this season, something that has not been achieved by an English club since Manchester United in 1998-99. Their toughest test will be overcoming the defending European champions Madrid, who already dumped Chelsea out of the competition for the second season running – something City will be eager to avoid.
Guardiola will know just how difficult beating the La Liga giants will be after being stunned at the Santiago Bernabeu last season, with two late goals dumping his side out of the competition. The previous year, Guardiola’s men were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea in the final in Porto.
But he insisted he is not interested in gaining revenge on Carlo Ancelotti’s side, claiming his side deserved to go out in their 6-5 aggregate defeat in May last year.
“We are not here for revenge, just an opportunity. We get what we deserve. We did everything more than everything but that is football and it is not enough,” Guardiola said.
“We need to be better. The lesson is not to come here for revenge. We need to give [ourselves] the opportunity to reach the final in Manchester.”