Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City will beat Paris Saint-Germain to reach their first Champions League final on Tuesday – but has warned the semi-final second leg will be the toughest game they face.
City take on PSG at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday having beaten the French champions 2-1 in Paris in the first leg last week.
That result means Guardiola is within touching distance of his first Champions League final since he won the competition with Barcelona in 2011, but he said: “From my experience the semi-finals are always difficult.
“You play with the result of the first leg, you play with your mind on the final and sometimes you forget what you have to do – win the game you are playing.
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“The semi-final second leg is always the difficult one – always has been like this. Final is completely different.”
Despite his undisputed status as one of the greatest managers of his generation, Guardiola has suffered a series of near misses in the Champions League since winning the competition with Barca for the second time a decade ago.
The Spaniard oversaw three successive semi-final exits during his time with Bayern Munich, while City experienced a last-16 defeat followed by three consecutive quarter-finals losses before finally reaching the last four this season.
Guardiola is hoping his players can channel their previous disappointments in the Champions League towards victory over PSG, saying: “I would like to feel that we learned about our defeats but I don’t know how we’re going to react – it’s always a mystery.
“The nice part of our jobs is it’s incredibly unpredictable. It was disappointing, but life always gives you another opportunity, another challenge.
“I would love to say, ‘yes, we learned from that’, but maybe tomorrow we play a bad game. I don’t think it, but we could play a bad game and be out of the final.
“But what I think right now is we’re going to do an incredible game and we’re going to reach the final. If the other ones are better, I congratulate the opponent. But I have the feeling we’re going to do well.”
City were outplayed by PSG during the opening half of the first leg and went 1-0 down at the interval, but a brilliant second-half performance saw them turn the tie around with two crucial away goals.
But while City go into the home leg with an undoubted advantage, Guardiola said: “In these games you are not going to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half. I would love it, but this is not going to happen.
“You have to understand it will be a big battle, a tough game with moments to suffer, but I’m pretty sure we are going to react well and impose what we have to do.
“What we have to do is no different to what we have done in the last seven or eight months; go out there, play our game and win. In the bad moments, stay calm, take the ball and try to regain our momentum.
“How big will be our good moments – that will be the difference. The desire to be remembered forever, we have to make a step forward and we’re going to do it.”
Stones: Man City are ‘quietly confident’
John Stones says Manchester City are feeling “quietly confident” as they bid to secure a place in the Champions League final for the first time.
Speaking at City’s pre-match press conference, Stones said: “I think [we are] quietly confident – we have to be. It is a big occasion for us as players and as a club, a chance to get into a Champions League final.
“We have got to go into it where we left off. We are really confident and excited for the challenge ahead.”
Stones admits City will have their work cut out to keep Neymar and – if fit – Kylian Mbappe quiet, but he is also wary of the rest of the team.
He said: “It’s never easy whoever we come up against. On the big occasions to come up against two world-class players is exciting as defenders, to test ourselves as defenders.
“But we need to keep the whole team quiet, not just those two.”
Stones added there is no room for doubts in the team’s approach, saying: “I don’t even want to think about losing. We go into the game to win it, that’s been our mindset over the past five years, to go into every game to try to win.”
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