File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola attends a press conference at City Football Academy in Manchester, north west England on September 30, 2019, the eve of their UEFA Champions League football Group C match against Dinamo Zagreb. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP
Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City’s desire to lift the Champions League outweighs any inexperience as they prepare for their first final in the competition against Chelsea on Saturday.
A decade of heavy investment from City’s Abu Dhabi owners has delivered five Premier League titles, three of which have come since Guardiola arrived in Manchester five years ago, including the season that has just finished.
But the Champions League has eluded both City and also Guardiola since he won the last of his two European Cups as a coach at Barcelona in 2011.
“Sometimes you need time. The important thing is the way we are going to approach the final. We are going to play to win the game,” said Guardiola on Monday.
“Sometimes clubs need more finals to win one, others need just one shot to be champion. Hopefully it will be the case.
“This club is new for many things, but in this period we won back-to-back titles for the first time, we broke many records, we arrived in the final for the first time.
“As a club, as an organisation, we are not old in this case. But in terms of how satisfied and delighted we are to be there, nobody can beat us in that.”
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Until this season, City had not even made it beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League under Guardiola.
Defensive frailties, missed chances and controversial refereeing calls were consistent features of unexpected exits to Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the previous four seasons.
But Guardiola’s men have got the breaks when they have needed them this season.
City were 35 minutes away from bowing out on away goals to Borussia Dortmund in the last eight before a favourable penalty award was converted by Riyad Mahrez.
Mahrez also scored three goals in the semi-finals in a 4-1 aggregate victory over Paris Saint Germain, with the French side guilty of missing chances and generous defending.
“We are quite a similar team from in the past when we were out,” said Guardiola. “The margins are little details. This year it fell on our side when for many years it was the opposite.
“Now we are quite satisfied to get to the final but we know if you don’t have a huge desire to win it, a huge desire to know what we have to do, it will not be possible to win the game, to win the Champions League.”
Portuguese international centre-back Ruben Dias was awarded the English Football Writers’ Association player of the year last week for his transformative impact since joining from Benfica in September.
File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola celebrates on the pitch after the English League Cup final football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Wembley stadium in London on March 1, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said City’s defensive improvement as the key difference in Europe this season.
“I feel this year a couple of crucial things changed for us,” said Gundogan.
“Against Monaco a few years ago we conceded three goals at home, against Tottenham when they knocked us out we conceded again three goals at home, against Lyon we conceded three goals.
“This year it seems we are so stable, we concede a few amount of goals. This helps us to win even more. I feel like we are very strong, very stable.
“This is so important in these crucial moments, being able to defend well, not to concede is obviously a big advantage.
“Same as well for Chelsea to be honest, they seem also to be very stable, to concede a few amount of goals. Maybe on Saturday it is going to be about who is able to deal better with a team that will defend on a very high level.”
Gundogan, City’s top scorer this season, also confirmed he will be fit for the final after suffering a leg injury against Brighton last week.