Pep Guardiola’s next shot at Champions League glory with Manchester City is his best yet

Manchester City and Pep Guardiola fell in last season’s final Champions League hurdle but the Premier League champions are well equipped to do better

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Norwich City vs Manchester City: the match in pictures

Manchester City are back in the Champions League this week as they try to make up for the heartache of losing last year’s final to Chelsea.

It was a familiar story for the Premier League champions, who have won the domestic title three times under Pep Guardiola but have yet to add a European trophy to their cabinet.

Raheem Sterling has insisted City will not rest on their laurels after preparing for their midweek game in Lisbon by soundly beating Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Sterling and his team-mates will be hoping Tuesday’s encounter with Sporting CP is just one step on the road to European glory, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Guardiola – Champions League winner with Barcelona at twice in the space of three years – can lift the trophy for the first time since arriving in England.

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Guardiola was disappointed after the Champions League final last season


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Guardiola has been accused of overthinking previous final line-ups, with his decision to sideline Rodri for the 2021 final being just the latest example.

Part of that could be down to the time given to the Catalan manager to prepare for the biggest games, with last year’s final taking place 18 days after his side were confirmed as Premier League winners.

There was an even bigger build-up in 2019-20, with more than a month between City’s title hopes mathematically ending and the Champions League resuming in unusual circumstances after the season was suspended.

The competition may be fiercer this season, but that’s often how Guardiola likes it.

The former Barcelona boss likes to test himself against the best in Europe, as evidenced by the semi-final win over Paris Saint-Germain in 2021 and the round of 16 win over Real Madrid the previous season.

Nonetheless, he will know that PSG have had more time to adapt to Mauricio Pochettino’s style of play than they did when the teams met in last season’s competition, while the Lionel Messi’s arrival will add to the Parisians’ knockout pedigree.

However, only one from PSG and Real Madrid will advance to the last eight, and Carlo Ancelotti’s own Champions League history ensures that it is impossible to knock out the Spanish league leaders.

And then, of course, we have Guardiola’s other former team.

Bayern showed this weekend that they are still accessible, suffering a shock 4-2 defeat at Bochum, but the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann as manager has made it a scarier proposition than last season under Hansi Flick .

Ex-Man City winger Leroy Sane could be a factor as Bayern aim for another final


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Still, City would be wrong to get ahead given the backdrop of some of their recent eliminations from Europe.

Neither Lyon in 2020 nor Monaco in 2017 would have considered themselves favorites against Guardiola’s side, while the next two years saw City knocked out by sides below them in the Premier League.

With that in mind, it’s vital that Sporting’s midweek opponents aren’t underestimated – especially as the Portuguese side’s Jose Alvalade stadium is the site of that Lyon setback.

The depth of City’s squad should still allow them to work, of course, but this year’s competition has another factor at play which Guardiola and his proteges will no doubt take into account.

While the 2020-21 edition came just weeks before the team’s internationals would join their compatriots for the European Championships or the Copa America, the prospect of a winter World Cup rather than a a traditional summer showpiece could impact performance at club level.

No player will ever claim to be holding anything back in the Champions League, but there may have been some unconscious holding back, the kind we’re unlikely to see given the longer post-season break than in the last two campaigns. .

City failed to find a way to advance against Chelsea in the 2021 final


Pool via REUTERS)

Guardiola remains a popular figure at Manchester City, both with fans and ownership, and another Premier League title defense should only add to that goodwill.

However, despite the level of success enjoyed domestically, the absence of a Champions League trophy has not gone unnoticed.

The concentration of quality at the top of the European game means that any team will need a combination of quality and fortune to finish the season as continental champions.

Over the past few years, City have struggled to enjoy both at the same time, despite their dominance at home.

This time, however, Guardiola may well feel that all the pieces are in place to finally end this painful drought.

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