Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City will face a major test of character against Bayern Munich, whose defiance he says is “in their shoes”.
Although City are leading 3-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Guardiola claims his side will face a Bayern side on Wednesday, who firmly believe they can turn the tide.
City used to hope the tie would end and then collapse, most recently in last season’s semi-finals when they led Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate as stoppage time approached in the second leg, only to to still be knocked out.
Asked if he has become more confident than before in his group of players doing their job, Guardiola said on Tuesday: “I would like to say yes, but I don’t know. Every game is completely different.
“I didn’t tell the team to be careful with Bayern Munich, how difficult they are. They are not relaxed because they felt it, they know it as well [Bayern] the team is.
“The enemy has many, many weapons, and therefore you must be yourself. What must you do to achieve this? Be yourself as much as possible.”
Guardiola said City were “here on business” and confirmed that Phil Foden would be a replacement following his return from appendicitis.
The Catalan coach is on the cusp of personal history, one step away from achieving 100 Champions League victories, a feat previously only achieved by Carlo Ancelotti (105) and Alex Ferguson (102).
If this century ended on Wednesday, it would be just 158 games away, with Ancelotti needing 180 games and Ferguson 184.
Building for Bavaria! pic.twitter.com/07fPh1CqQb
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 18, 2023
Guardiola said that City did not come to Munich to take the lead, but when circumstances demanded, they would defend.
“I don’t understand the situation where you have to come here just to defend something,” said Guardiola, who coached Bayern from 2013 to 2016. We come here to play one football match. If you only think about the result and what you should do, or what we have done in the past, that would be a big mistake for us.
“We will definitely defend ourselves. It happened in Manchester. In terms of the game they were better and we needed to defend and we are going to defend tomorrow.
“This is an opportunity for us. You see [Bayern] trophy cabinet and how many times they have played this type of game in their incredible history, that’s a lot.
“We are few. We will try to impose our game. We come here knowing their quality, we quickly adapt, maybe to some new opponent’s scheme and play our own way.
“We are talking about the game that we have to play, not about the result that we had a week ago. That’s what you have to do in the game and focus on every single action to do what you have to do to get the best score possible and reach the semi-finals.”
Guardiola suspects Thomas Tuchel and Bayern will be saying the same thing.
“I was here at Bayern Munich and I know the mentality of this club,” Guardiola said. “He is everywhere: he is in [the club’s HQ at] Sabenerstrasse, it’s on their skin.
“I know they believe they can do it, and we believe too.”
Guardiola expects Bayern’s Thomas Müller to start as he only came on as a substitute in the first leg.
If so, then City captain Ilkay Gündogan will be among those keeping a close eye on the man who can make Bayern work, whom he knows well from their teamwork in German midfield.
Gundogan’s future at City is in the balance, with his contract expiring at the end of June and the 32-year-old can’t give any indication as to whether he will stay at Manchester.
“There are negotiations. Clearly, there are negotiations going on in the background. This is quite normal, because there are only a couple of months left,” Gundogan said. “Before I go into details, nothing has been decided yet, either on my part or on the part of the club.”
The skipper was delighted to hear that Guardiola wanted him to stay, saying: “I really appreciate it. We were together for seven years and it was amazing. We have won a lot together, and such things bring me joy, make me smile and make me appreciate what I have done in seven years.”
City have only lost one of their last 20 matches against German teams in the Champions League (W16 D3), losing to RB Leipzig in the 2021–22 group stage.
They are undefeated in their nine games against Germany in the knock-out stages of the tournament (W8 D1), although Bayern have only lost both Champions League knock-out matches twice before, both against Real Madrid in 2013. -14 semi-finals and 2016-17 quarter-finals.
Their biggest overall loss came in the first of those matches, when Guardiola was Bayern’s head coach in a 5-0 win against Spain.