Pep Guardiola has refused to recognize the Champions League as a higher priority for his Manchester City side as they also move closer to the Premier League title.
City have never won Europe’s premier club competition and are playing in the semi-finals for only the second time.
They will face Paris Saint-Germain in France on Wednesday then welcome next Tuesday the giants of Ligue 1, finalists beaten last year.
Between these two matches, City could win the Premier League. If they beat Crystal Palace and defending champions Liverpool win at Manchester United, Guardiola’s men will claim that crown.
While acknowledging that his club are preparing for a Champions League challenge over the past decade, Guardiola was keen to talk about City’s continued domestic success.
They won silverware in Sunday’s EFL Cup final, a competition they won in four consecutive campaigns.
“This is the second time that we are there [in the Champions League semis]; of course we are not the elite of this competition, for sure, but we want to be there, ”said Guardiola, reaching this stage for a record eighth time.
“When the owners picked up over a decade ago they took action to improve in England first, in the Premier League, in the cups, and then this.
“Owners, managers and staff have secured this position right now. Every time we play this competition, we have the chance to live where we are.
“Right now I’m incredibly happy to travel with this club to Paris to be ourselves and play this semi-final with the goal of winning the game.
“And then go to Crystal Palace to win one of the two games to win the Premier League, the most important competition. The Champions League is the most beautiful but the most important is the Premier League.
“After, next Tuesday in Manchester, we play in Paris to try to reach the final.”
Ready for #ucl action tomorrow
– Manchester City (@ManCity) April 27, 2021
City are looking for a 10th Champions League win of the season, a record never achieved by an English club in the current format of the competition.
Only Real Madrid in 2011-12 had already achieved 10 victories in a campaign without winning the title.
Guardiola won’t be complacent and expects a tough test against PSG, who want to become the ninth European Cup / Champions League team to reach back-to-back finals, but it’s also determined that City will enjoy the experience.
“We know we are going to suffer. I know the guns they have up front, ”he said. “Anyone who loves football knows their quality.
“But we’re in the Champions League semi-finals, what can you expect? PSG is not just two players, there are many situations. We have to know them and try to attack them.
“I won’t play 90 minutes thinking how good this player is, just how to beat him. I learned from Johan Cruyff: you have to appreciate the game, appreciate the responsibility.
“The best players like situations because they like responsibility – that’s why the greatest players win this competition, because they play it like a friendly match.
“The mythical phrase [from Cruyff] before the final in 1992 at Wembley was to go out and enjoy.
“I won’t tell the players that – I’m not Cruyff – but enjoy the trip, the coffee at their airport, the hotel, watching the other game tonight, the walk, the practice.
“We have the privilege of being one of the top four teams in Europe this season. This is what I want to see in my players. That’s why Cruyff came up with this idea.
“Once we get to the final, it’s not to worry or worry about if we lose. If we lose, we try again next season.
“Once you get into those stages, you’re nervous because you think about the consequences, not the thrill of trying to beat them.
“This is the mindset of the greatest players in all sports: we have done it before, we are trying to do it next.”
All eyes are on Paris tomorrow!
– Manchester City (@ManCity) April 27, 2021
Winger Riyad Mahrez spoke alongside Guardiola and described last season’s quarter-final loss to Lyon as “the biggest disappointment of my career”.
But he and his City teammates aren’t just making the last four.
Paris-born Mahrez said: “You have to show that you deserve to be here and that you deserve to be in the final. This is what we must try to do tomorrow. “
He added: “The Champions League is what we miss. I don’t think anyone on our team has won it before. In Europe, this is the best thing you can play and win for.
“If we can try to make the final first, then we’ll see. The most important is tomorrow. Tomorrow we have to have a good game and try to pass.