Guardiola warns City players not to try and protect 5-3 lead
MONACO: Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola sees no way to stop Monaco's prolific attack, warning his players it would be a "huge mistake" to try and defend their lead in the return leg of their Champions League last-16 match on Wednesday.
City won the first leg 5-3 in a pulsating game, recovering from a 3-2 deficit before rallying with late goals to take the initiative.
But that means nothing to Guardiola, who is openly praiseworthy — and fearful — of a Monaco side that has scored 123 goals this season. His only option, he says, is to try and outscore Monaco again.
"It would be a huge mistake, a huge mistake to think about what we have done and not think about what we have to do. They are a top, top team," Guardiola told a news conference Tuesday. "When you play a team that has scored 123 goals and you think to defend, then you kill yourself. The best way to defend is to attack well. I don't know another way."
As a former coach of Barcelona, which he built into the most entertaining side in the world, Guardiola is well-placed to talk about attacking football. He considers Monaco right up there with the best attacking sides he's faced.
"They don't attack with five, they attack with six guys. They are physically strong and fast in short spaces," he said. "Best team in the world scoring goals."
That's some praise from Guardiola, considering he led Barcelona to two Champions League trophies and three Spanish titles with a brand of attacking football that thrilled fans around the world.
"Monaco are able to score from many different ways. The best way is to score goals, take the ball and attack as much as possible," he said. "It's the only way to beat a team like this."
Guardiola's tactics are clear, then.
He wants his players on the front foot from the start and to not think about how to control the match.
"Here, has to be the game," Guardiola said, tapping his forehead twice to underline what his players need to bear in mind.
"I want to see a team daring from the first minute to win the game. I don't like my teams to speculate," Guardiola said. "We know with 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 (defeats) we are out. We know that."
Given how neither team is focused on defending, Wednesday's match promises to be a goal feast at Stade Louis II.
"I am sure tomorrow will be a fantastic game again. I invite the people to come here," Guardiola said, smiling. "They are going to see a good game tomorrow, I am sure of that."
Although City reached the semifinals for the first time last season — edged out 1-0 by Real Madrid, the eventual champion — it was only the first time City had reached the quarterfinals or beyond.
Given this, the Spanish coach is reluctant to say whether he thinks City is equipped to win the competition — this season or beyond.
"I don't know. I would like to think about it, to say 'yes.' I'm so comfortable here. I'll never forget how they take care of me and give me everything," he said. "But it's my eighth year (as a manager) and I knew how complicated this competition is. Set pieces. You lose five minutes of concentration and you're out.
"I don't know if we're able to win the Champions League. I don't know. I don't know. But be sure we are going to try. Absolutely."