Pep Guardiola relishing 'beautiful' intensity of Champions League spotlight

20 February 2017 04:09

Pep Guardiola is relishing the intensity of the Champions League spotlight and hopes his Manchester City players can do the same.

City resume their European challenge on Tuesday as they host Monaco in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Guardiola won the competition twice with Barcelona and took Bayern Munich to three successive semi-finals, thriving on the knife-edge pressure it brings along the way.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, City boss Guardiola said: "A lot of big clubs are not here, they are not living that situation. We are lucky guys.

"I know how difficult it is as a manager, as a player, to be selected to be here.

"The recent history is quite good but in the long history, Manchester City were not here for a long time. I would like to convince the players to enjoy that moment. It is beautiful.

"All of Europe will watch us, to analyse us, to kill us if we don't win or say how good we are if we do win. That is the huge experience. It is beautiful to me."

He added: "It is one of the most beautiful competitions to play. Maybe not the most important, but the most beautiful."

City reached the quarter-finals for the first time last season and went on to reach the last four, but their opponents in the first knockout stage this time are in formidable form.

Monaco are top of Ligue 1, three points ahead of a Paris St Germain side that thrashed Barcelona last week, having scored 76 goals in their 26 games.

A number of their players have been linked with big-money summer moves with 18-year-old winger Kylian Mbappe, especially, earning rave reviews.

Guardiola said: "Like a spectator it is so nice to see them. I am really impressed how good they are.

"They are physically strong, the full-backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders. The two strikers are fighters in the box - (Radamel) Falcao, (Valere) Germain. They are killers in the box.

"We are looking forward to playing against them. Just compliments (to them) because they are a really good team."

Falcao, who struggled to make an impact during loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea in the past two seasons, has rediscovered the form that once made him one of the most feared strikers in the world.

The Colombian has scored 19 goals in all competitions this season.

Guardiola said: "He had tough injuries and always you need time for that.

"The system and the way they play now is perfect for him. They attack inside and cross a lot and this kind of player needs that.

"I am happy for him, he is a good professional and a nice guy. I am happy he is back at his level and scoring goals."

City's run to the semi-finals last season was a landmark achievement for the club and the challenge is now to replicate that on a regular basis.

Forward Kevin De Bruyne said: "This team is building on that but we need time to do that year after year.

"Last year was a great step for the team but we know it is going to be a tough test tomorrow to play against an in-form team in France.

"We have to do our job and win this round and stay in the Champions League. It is very important for people who look at us, evaluate us and criticise us to see we are going in the right direction."

Source: PA