LONDON — Pep Guardiola said his Manchester City side have to be up for the challenge of overturning their one-goal deficit to Tottenham if they are to become a high-level team.
Son Heung-Min‘s 78th minute strike secured a 1-0 win for Spurs in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of the second leg at the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.
City remain in the hunt for the Quadruple, but Guardiola said that his players should expect difficult moments if they are to have any chance of winning the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
“The teams that arrive in the later stages, you have to do that — it’s a challenge,” the City boss told a news conference. “I didn’t expect to come here and solve the situation.
“We would have liked to score an away goal, because we know how important it is. I would say if we did not play good, but I don’t have that feeling.
“For the high levels you have to live these situations. When you get to the quarterfinals and semifinals, and play the first leg away from home, you can’t expect to win 0-3. That is the reality, it happened in many teams. Now we have another chance and that is the point.”
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He also left out Kevin De Bruyne and said the decision was tactical rather than due to fitness with the Belgium playmaker recently coming back from knee injuries.
“I decided to play with two holding midfielders in that position — [Ilkay] Gundogan and Fernandinho — to be a bit more solid,” he said,
“It’s not the issue. I know it’s tough for him but if Kevin and Gundogan play we have the second leg. We spoke about that. It’s 180 minutes. We played to score a goal. Unfortunately we couldn’t score but we have the second game. We will see what happens.
“It looks a little bit more complicated but every hour that passes we will see it closer. We are going to push each other and try.”
City are at least in a better position than at the same stage last season when they trailed 3-0 after a first leg defeat at Liverpool.
But with Jurgen Klopp’s side pushing City close in the Premier League title race, Guardiola said his focus will now be on Sunday’s trip to Crystal Palace and not the second leg.
“Now I am going to think about another game against Crystal Palace and then we are going to prepare the game against Tottenham,” he added.
“We will see if we are going to change it a but, with our people, with our fans, our families we will see. If we are not able to arrive in the last stages it is because it is a challenge. The situation is what it is.”