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Pep Guardiola accepts blame for Manchester City's European failures

Jamie Jackson
·4-min read

Pep Guardiola has denied Manchester City have a mental block in the Champions League and admitted their failure to progress beyond the quarter-finals under him is solely his fault.

In the four years of Guardiola’s management City have reached the last eight three times and the last 16 once. Their campaign last season ended with a 3-1 quarter-final defeat against Lyon. This followed a 4-4 aggregate elimination by Tottenham on away goals in 2018-19, a 5-1 defeat by Liverpool in 2017-18, and 6-6 elimination by Monaco, again on away goals, the year before.

Related: Manchester City show Arsenal that the game belongs to the players | Jonathan Liew

As City welcome Porto for their opening group game on Wednesday Guardiola denied the serial failures pointed to an issue with players’ mentality and preferred to accept culpability.

“I don’t think it’s mental, because I think this situation is more about desire and avoiding some mistakes that we do,” he said. “Lyon was a tough moment. I felt so responsible for this, how the club and players fought to achieve it, and I was not able to drive them. Still right now I feel responsible watching the game [back], but we have to accept the reality. We were not good enough; we didn’t play bad.”

Guardiola refused to blame the team. “It’s easy for the manager to say that. It’s not about this. I’m so responsible for this, I don’t blame any single players, they are mature enough. We had really good moments and had our chances but made mistakes and in this competition you cannot do it to go through. The reality is we have not performed [any year] to the level we have to get through in this competition – and that is the reality.

“We have to accept it with humility, accept all the bad situations that we have. Then, when we accept this, it is the best way to improve and go through [finally] and accept a new challenge for this season, start from zero again and try it again knowing we have to improve. Everyone knows this competition is so demanding. I feel so bad for the players [for previous failures].”

City’s other opponents in Group C are Marseille and Olympiakos in what is a 10th successive season in the competition for the Premier League club, who have reached one semi-final.

Guardiola said: “I have the feeling that we are close, every season when I analyse the way we went out. Now it’s a new opportunity. We have to do things differently to what we have done previously.

“At the same time when you review the games, even in Liverpool when we lost 3-0 [in the opening leg], or the game against Tottenham or against Lyon, always I had the feeling we are close. In the games absolutely none of them were better than us. They are little gaps but these little gaps we have to solve and we did not. When you don’t solve it, it’s because you don’t deserve it.”

Rúben Dias has impressed since his summer arrival at the Etihad Stadium.
Rúben Dias has impressed since his summer arrival at the Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

City host the Portuguese champions with Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy and Aymeric Laporte unavailable because of injury. Guardiola places particular emphasis on winning the home group matches. “When you play the first game away it’s not as important like having the first game at home. So it’s vital to get the three points against Porto.”

Rúben Dias has impressed since joining from Benfica in the last transfer window. Despite costing £62m and Laporte’s absence the centre-back shrugged off any pressure he might feel. “The pressure is greater [at this club],” he said. “I have had pressure when I was young. I had pressure when I got into Benfica’s first team and when I went to the [Portuguese] national team and I have got pressure now. It is part of football. The higher you go the more pressure you have. I like it and it is all good.”