“Extravagant” plan against Real?
The city trembles with Guardiola’s destructive genius
Manchester City are favorites against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals – or is Josep Guardiola the manager again? The eternal accusation of “thinking too much” reappears. And the Catalan replies with an enigmatic idea.
Josep Guardiola just doesn’t feel it anymore. The manager of the Manchester City team only responds to the eternal accusation of regularly coaching the big names with sarcasm. “I always think too much in the Champions League”, he said recently, smiling mockingly, “I like to invent stupid tactics”. Of course, this was not meant seriously, yet Catalan cannot get rid of the stigma of “overthinking”. Will he also do it on Tuesday in the first leg of the semifinal against Real Madrid, winner of the record, with striker Karim Benzema? (21:00 on Amazon Prime and in the live ticker on ntv.de) exaggerate? In Manchester there is the fear that Guardiola could unnecessarily jeopardize the possible dream final against Liverpool.
The Catalan, he wrote to the “Evening News”, is working on a “bizarre” idea: striker Gabriel Jesus, who scored just four goals against Watford FC and was compared by Guardiola to legend of nine players Christo Stojtschkow , could tackle staff problems on the defensive help “If Gabriel is to play as right back, he will play as right back, no problem,” said Guardiola, shrugging.
Damn he often gambled
The fact that the 51-year-old likes to take risks tactically has long been and sufficiently demonstrated. In the 2021 Champions League final, he did without a true six and regular left-back Joao Cancelo. His representative Oleksandr Zinchenko let Chelsea’s Kai Havertz slip away from the winning goal. The previous season, the Catalan was wrecked in the quarter-finals against Lyon with about thirty. In 2019 he sacrificed his baton Kevin De Bruyne in the same round against Tottenham and failed. 2018 was also the last stage of the round of 16, also because Guardiola surprisingly let İlkay Gündoğan play on the left against Liverpool and thus undermined the static of the match in the city.
Guardiola has won the league three times with City since taking office in 2016, but it’s been a long time since he last triumphed in the Champions League. He did it 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 “some trophies in the closet,” Guardiola said of Real’s 13 trophies in the premier class alone. This should also be an attempt to push the role of favorites to the team of coach Carlo Ancelotti. 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,” said Carlos Tevez in an interview on the Manchester club’s website. The former pro sees this as a big step forward and sees no reason why the Brits 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, apparently Guardiola is already planning big things. “It would be boring if I always played the same”, Guardiola retorted to the critics at the beginning of April, after all he had to adapt to his opponent. After all: in the round of 16 of 2020 Guardiola eliminated the royals (2: 1/2: 1). Again he hopes for “a special night” and asked: “We must enjoy it and give all that is in our souls”. But on the other side there are the big Real and Benzema. “Damn,” said City pro Rodri, “this guy is crazy in every game. We have to be careful!”
While Manchester are only in the semi-finals for the third time, Madrid are in the top four for the 30th time. Along the way, the team around former national team player Toni Kroos took out top teams like Paris St. Germain and Guardiola’s bugbear Chelsea. In addition to Casemiro in the six, defense chief David Alaba is also injured, but Gündoğan warns against negligence: “This is a brutal team”.
And at least a little bit the royals backed him up in their dress rehearsal, which they managed with a 3-1 win over Osasuna, but superstar Benzema missed two penalties. The Frenchman had scored the decisive goal in the second leg of the quarter-finals, thus ensuring the elimination of the reigning champions Chelsea. In the 3-1 first leg win, the striker even scored three goals in London.