Manchester City host Real Madrid in the Champions League semi final first leg on Tuesday night, and Pep Guardiola spoke highly of his long-time rivals.
The Catalan coach knows his side face a major challenge against Los Blancos who have knocked out world class opposition so far this campaign, and Guardiola insists that Madrid have been far from lucky to knock out the likes of PSG and Chelsea.
“It’s not a question of luck or chance, that’s not the case,” he said at the press conference.
“They have a lot of quality, people say it’s luck, but it isn’t.”
City got the better of Madrid in the 2019/20 edition of the competition, but Guardiola remains modest.
“In 2020 it was a very evenly matched tie, decided by the details,” he said. “What I’ve seen from Madrid, especially [in the last round against Chelsea], is that they have players with great resolve.
“What I like most, above all, is that in the difficulty, at 3-0 down, there are players who raise their finger and say here I am.
“The ball doesn’t burn them at 3-0, others do, but not them. Modric and Kroos, or Carvajal and Alaba, Benzema of course, ask for it.”
Guardiola was also asked whether he’d be content with having taken City to the semi finals.
“As a coach I will never get what I want. I will always have another aim. When I leave you will say if I have been good or not, and I will try everything somewhere else.
“I try to do the best I can. Let’s hope we suffer as few minutes as possible.”
“If we have to compete with history we have no chance,” said Guardiola. “History speaks for itself. For us it will be an incredible test and we’ll try to do it.
“Suffer when we have to suffer, have the ball, attack whenever we can.”
Premier League leaders City take on La Liga leaders Real in the first leg of the semi-final at home on Tuesday.
Guardiola’s side lost 1-0 to Chelsea in their first Champions League final last season, while Real have been European champions 13 times.
“It is not necessary to say how good Real Madrid are,” said Guardiola.
“If we have to compete with their history, we don’t have any chance. The history is there, we can’t change it, but it’s 11 against 11 with one ball moving.
“We will try to be ourselves, compete well. We need to play two exceptional games to reach the final.”
Guardiola will make late decisions on the fitness of England defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker, who are both doubts because of injuries.
This is the third time in seven seasons that City have reached the last four, while Real are in the semi-finals for the 10th occasion in 12 years and aiming to win the tournament for the first time since they beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 final.
“It’s an honour to be here in the semi-finals against Real Madrid,” added Guardiola. “They’ve been here many times, we have in recent years.”
City, who beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 on aggregate over two legs in the quarter-final, are one point ahead of Liverpool with five Premier League games to go, while Real have a 15-point La Liga advantage over Barcelona and only need one more point to be Spanish champions.
The second leg of this semi-final will be played at the Bernabeu on 4 May with the final in Paris on 28 May. Liverpool and Spanish side Villarreal contest the other semi-final, with the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday.