Pep Guardiola insisted the Premier League is more important than the Champions League, while believing Barcelona would have won more in Europe if Neymar had stayed at the club.
While City have dominated domestically in recent times, adding to their trophy haul with a Carabao Cup triumph on Sunday, the Premier League leaders have never reached a European Cup final in their history, playing in just one semi-final, in the 2015-16 season when Guardiola’s predecessor Manuel Pellegrini was in charge.
Guardiola himself has never won the Champions League, or reached the final, since leaving Barcelona, but ahead of his side’s semi-final clash with Paris Saint-Germain, the Spaniard is adamant he is not feeling the pressure to get a result in the French capital, far from it, and believes domestic glory is still at the forefront of his mind.
“I don’t want to win tomorrow, I don’t want to go to a final. The dream is to be ourselves,” Guardiola said.
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“We know we are going to suffer in both games and they are going to have chances. Everyone knows the quality they have. But in the semi-finals of the Champions League, what do you expect? But at the same time are we going to spend 90 minutes thinking about this player or that player? You have to enjoy the pressure and the situation.
“We are not in the elite of this competition, but we want to be there for sure. The owners, when they took over, wanted to take us there in England first, and we are lucky to live where we are now. I am incredibly happy to travel to Paris with this club to try and win and then to Crystal Palace to try and win one of the two games that we need to win the title.
“The Premier League is the most important one, but the Champions League is the nicest one I think. Everyone is fit, ready and happy. We are all grateful to have this opportunity. At some clubs this is normal, some have many Champions Leagues and this is normality, but for us it is new and we are grateful for it. It is incredible, it is so nice to go to Paris.”
City are just two wins from being guaranteed the Premier League title, and could even clinch a third crown under Guardiola this weekend, if Manchester United lose to Liverpool and City beat Palace.
Also of concern to Guardiola is Neymar, who has played a major role in PSG getting all the way to the last four for the second season in a row.
“I remember watching clips of Neymar and thinking this is the king of Santos [Neymar’s first club in Brazil],” Guardiola added. “The players had their mouths open. If Neymar had stayed at Barcelona, they would have won two or three Champions League more. Him, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez were the best up front. He makes football a pleasure.
“I try to sleep well last night and I slept when I was not thinking about the PSG players like that. We will try and stop them by defending as a team and playing well as a team. We will have to adjust something of course, but at the same time, it wouldn’t make any sense to not to be who we are.
“It is normal to adjust, like we will against [Wilfried] Zaha against Crystal Palace.”
Guardiola spoke in glowing terms of one of his own young stars – Phil Foden – as he goes up against one of the other top young players in the world in Kylian Mbappe on Tuesday.
“Both are young incredible talents with incredible skills, but it is difficult to compare players in different positions,” Guardiola added. “I am sure that PSG are happy to have Mbappe, and you cannot imagine how happy we are to have Phil.
“I don’t give presents to players. They don’t play because they are a Manchester City player. He plays because he is at a good level.”
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