‘We have to punish them’: Guardiola rallies City for Real Madrid reunion

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Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to “hurt and punish” Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Santiago Bernabéu, with the hosts asking Uefa’s permission to close the stadium roof to ensure as vocal an atmosphere as possible.

City knocked Real out of last year’s semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate, which included a 4-0 hammering of Carlo Ancelotti’s team in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium. Guardiola believes that despite the result City and Real are at a similar level. On Tuesday night he wants the holders to take the initiative.

“We cannot come here just to control the game, we have to come here to try to hurt them, to punish them, to let them know we are here to score the goals,” he said. “We are talking about Real Madrid and their ability to control many aspects of the game. We have to impose our game with who we are.

“They will be able to press high, be so aggressive. If you can do a good progress [passing move], they will drop. But everybody knows the strengths from transitions they have with Rodrygo, [Jude] Bellingham, [Federico] Valverde, Vinícius Júnior.”

Guardiola is confident City can retain the trophy. “We have a sense that we did it [last term] and if we did it once we can do it again,” the ­Catalan said. “Being again [at this stage] after what happened last season here in the quarter-final after making an incredible group stage, winning all the games, and being here is really good for us.”

The City manager does not see a repeat of last season’s easy victory. “It’s difficult because beating Real Madrid two times in the same way is almost impossible. Beating them once in this competition is difficult, imagine two in a row. They learn, they have pride, we have to try to be smart with the game we play tomorrow and see what happens in the second leg,” he said.

Jude Bellingham takes on Luka Modric in training with Real MadridView image in fullscreen

In his first season at Real, Jude ­Bellingham has scored 20 goals, four of which came in six group games, along with six assists. Guardiola said: “He played when he was 17 with Dortmund [against us] and then I said: ‘It’s not just his skills but the difference is what he has in his brain and mind’. And he came to this club [Real] with exceptional players and a manager like Carlo.

“He’s had an incredible season in terms of goals, assists, his presence in the box. Not just with Madrid but with the England national team he has been brilliant. At just 20, he has a long career ahead of him.”

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While City will be without Kyle Walker and Nathan Aké due to their respective thigh and calf injuries, Real will learn on Tuesday morning if Uefa will grant their wish to close the roof at the 85,000-capacity ­Bernabéu.

Rodri, who scored the winner for City in last season’s final, believes they will be calm. “If I ask something it’s that they play with serenity and composure, that we give the best of ourselves,” he said. “It gives you more, composure, serenity [winning] the competition.”

Source: theguardian.com

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