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Band Luke Edwards

When the questions came, Pep Guardiola remained polite, even though he had heard most of them before.

On Wednesday night, he sets out for his sixth attempt to win the Champions League for Manchester City. He has been asked variations of the same questions every September, October, November and December. There was the usual selection of quizzes as he listened, occasional rubbing of his head and face as if to stay sharp, and a moment-in-hand moment when he again had to deny that he had said that he certainly would leave City in 2023. Reaching the final in May has not changed the narrative much because the ambition to win European football’s most prestigious competition has not been realized.

The expectation remains the same, so inevitably the questions posed to the manager and player before launching their latest European campaign will continue to be asked.

For Spanish midfielder Rodri – Does the club have to win the Champions League to be considered an elite club? Do you have unfinished business in this competition after going so close last season? Can Jack Grealish help you take the next step (win the final) perhaps?

He was also asked about other things, including how long it had taken him to recover from the devastation of defeat against Chelsea. He had “three s — days where he could not talk to family and friends about it”, which sounded reasonable enough. His other answer can be summed up: “Winning the Champions League is in our heads … It’s one of our dreams, but it’s not mandatory.”

“Jack does not have much European experience, but everyone can see his quality, and he has played a lot of international football …”

“I would sign right now if that meant we would get to another final … but we have to go step by step, start against Leipzig and then get out of the group.”

City have a tougher group this year. Leipzig may have sold most of the key players who made it to the semi-finals in 2020, but they beat Manchester United in the group stage last year before losing to Liverpool in the quarter-finals. And with Paris St-Germain, who most people would consider – along with City – to be favorites to be crowned champions next May, also in Group A, as well as Bruges, it will not be straightforward to make knockout rounds. City have managed it every season since Guardiola arrived in 2016, reaching the quarter-finals in its first season, the quarter-finals three years in a row and then a first final last time.

He was asked if his team was better prepared to win after making the final, and if his desire was as great now as it was when he started in Barcelona. There was also a nice one about whether teams have to go through the adversity to lose matches like them against Lyon (quarter-finals 2020) and Chelsea to win the big prizes. He said they probably did, pointing out that they had a good race last year: “Thirteen matches, won 11, drew one and lost one” but “people still say it’s a failure, so we have a desire to do better. ”

He made sure to emphasize that this was the start of a new competition and they would “try to win the first match”, that “the group games are difficult”, so they “have to fight and prove that they deserve to be in the next stages. ”It was put to him that people still say, after five years of lifting domestic trophies, that he must win the Champions League for his time in City to be truly considered a success. Guardiola smiled and shrugged. “I accept, every year is the same,” he said. “If I win the Champions League, I will be happy for the club. If not, we will not do so … after you can judge my career a success or not.

“I do not know, I can not answer this question. Every single day I try to do my best and people can judge my job, how I rate my players and how incredible they have done over the last four or five years. ”

Here we go again. First up, Leipzig.

Team details (likely)

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Grealish.

RB Leipzig (4-2-3-1): Gulacsi; Gvardiol, Simakin, Orban, Mukiele; Kampl, Laimer; Nkunku, Olmo, Szoboszlai; Silva.


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