Pep Guardiola: 5 Times the Manager's Team Selection Cost His Side in the Champions League

10 April 2019 05:41

​Pep Guardiola's team selection has come under scrutiny in the wake of Manchester City's 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on Tuesday, with many left mystified as to why certain players got the nod ahead of, well, Kevin De Bruyne.

One of the few chinks in the Spaniard's tree trunk thick armour is his supposed 'over-thinking' in big games. Nonetheless, many will still back City to progress, helped massively by Harry Kane's potentially season ending injury, yet it papers over cracks that point towards an element of potential mismanagement in the Champions League.

​​The stats don't lie either. Remarkably, since beating ​Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011, eight years later he is yet to win another away leg of a ​Champions League quarter-final or semi-final. Additionally, of the 26 matches Guardiola has taken charge of in the competition's knockout games, he's won just six.

Thus, it's time to look back on some other instances throughout his managerial career in the Champions League where Guardiola's team selection may very well have cost his side.

Bayern 0-4 Real Madrid (2014)

Thomas Mueller

In one of the more astonishingly one-sided semi final legs in recent history, Madrid cast ​​Bayern Munich aside back in 2014.

Seeds of doubt were sown over the Spaniard's managerial credentials following this humiliating night. Fielding Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic playing as a front four, Bayern were unsurprisingly torn apart by the visitors, conceding three times in the opening 34 minutes.

Such was the need to reshuffle and add defensive minded players to the fold, that Mandzukic was hooked off at half time in favour of Javi Martinez. The desire to attack, attack and nothing but attack went down like a lead balloon, and the Champions League dream was ended once again.

Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich (2015)

FC Barcelona v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

Ahead to the match Guardiola had said: "There is no system that can stop Lionel Messi, and no coach, either."

He wasn't wrong as the Argentine scored twice to hand La Blaugrana an unassailable semi final first leg lead, however, questions were raised regarding the Spaniard's team selection yet again. A back three was implemented for the match, something generally out of the ordinary for Die Roten that season, with Thiago Alcantara playing in a wider right role.

The tactical switch proved costly, as Guardiola's attempt to flood the midfield and press their opponents high up the pitch from kick off was quickly abandoned. Bayern saw more of the possession, only the second team to do so in 442 games at the time, but the visitors failed to register a single shot on target as they severely lacked cutting edge

Barcelona 4-0 Manchester City (2016)

Nicolas Otamendi,Ilkay Gundogan

In his first season at the club Guardiola was presented with the daunting task of facing his former employers in the group stages of the Champions League.

Well aware of the talent on disposal at the Camp Nou, one can be forgiving towards Guardiola as he lined his team with defence as the priority. However, the decision to play ​De Bruyne in a false nine position and to include Nolito over ​Sergio Aguero​ puzzled many, and what unfolded was something of a formality.

Claudio Bravo was sent off early in the second half as the floodgates began to open, but, despite being competitive in the first 45 minutes, the lack of focal point and running in behind were glaringly obvious. City lose the game 4-0; the worst defeat in the club's UEFA Champions League history. 

Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City (2018)


Guardiola was undone by a first half salvo​ from Jurgen Klopp's men last term at the quarter final stage of the competition. 

As he did against Tottenham, the Spaniard opted for more bodies in midfield, in an effort to suffocate the Reds down the middle. The decision to leave ​Raheem Sterling on the bench in favour of Ilkay Gundogan raised eyebrows, while De Bruyne began in a more withdrawn role, as Gabriel Jesus was left almost entirely isolated up front. 

Manchester City 1-2 Lyon (2018)


Starting their Champions League campaign with the opportunity to set a marker against their biggest rivals in the group should surely have meant starts for Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.right? 

No, instead Gabriel Jesus and Gundogan got the nod ahead of the duo, both making way around the half hour mark after the Citizens went into half time 2-0 down. The resulting onslaught that ensued came shortly after the pair joined entered the fray, as Guardiola's men came within touching distance of a draw.

Source: 90min