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Pep Guardiola has urged his players to play against the team in front of the club, while Manchester City are preparing to host Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, although two top stars could be missing.
City host the 13-time European champions in the first match of their final four-match match at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night, bidding to reach the final for only the second time after last year’s second place.
Guardiola is well aware that City’s history can hardly be compared to that of the Spanish giants. However, he is convinced that the current Premier League leaders can become their match on the field.
“If we are to compete with history, we have no chance – they are better,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference.
“They have been in this competition many times. Before the last decade we were not, we were never here.
“The story is there, we can not change it, but tomorrow we will play 11 against 11, a ball is on the field and the players will decide whether the decision-making is good or not.
“We play against players who have been in this position many, many times and several times, reached finals and won.
“That’s why they have that kind of thing, and maybe we still do not have it, but there are other problems, and maybe we want it, and they do not.
“Ultimately, it’s the quality of the players and how strong they are mentally that will make the difference.”
England’s duo could miss out on massive clashes
The main concerns regarding Town on the way into the game relates to their defense. Right-back Kyle Walker and center-back John Stones are still doubtful after recent injuries and the other first-choice full-back, Joao Cancelo, has been suspended.
Walker has missed the last three games with an ankle problem and the Stones got a crack in last Wednesday’s Premier League win over Brighton.
Much now depends on how they perform and react to training on Monday, but there is a strong possibility that someone may need to play in an unknown position.
This is an echo of the quarterfinals two years ago against the same opponents when Fernandinho played as a central defender.
On that occasion, the Brazilian took up the challenge when City picked up a famous victory and Guardiola is convinced that anyone who needs to step in for this time would shine again.
He said: “We will see the players who are in doubt how they are doing and tonight and tomorrow we will have time to decide the line-up.
“We’ll see how they do, but I’m pretty sure that if players have to play in positions they’s not used to, they will do their best. I have no doubt about that now.”
No maverick Jesus attitude changes
One option that Guardiola, however, was quick to rule out was to insert forward Gabriel Jesus at right back.
The City boss alluded to such an opportunity after the Brazilian scored four goals against Watford on Saturday as a means of celebrating his versatility, but he pointed out he was not actually serious.
He said: “He’s not going to play right back! Maybe Vinicius Junior against Gabriel would be a good match, but he’s not going to play right back. Maybe he could in a few minutes …”
Guardiola has been relaxed in behavior this month despite facing a series of high-pressure fights.
That was again the impression he was trying to convey on Monday, although the former Barcelona coach was abrupt in some responses to Spanish journalists, something that might go back to a previously perceived antipathy towards Madrid-based media.
He said: “There are many, many good teams that are not here and one year we will not be because it is so demanding.
“That’s why I said to the players, enjoy the moment, prepare for the match. You never know, it may be once in a lifetime, no one knows. You have to enjoy it, and what I want is to be ourselves . ”
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