Guardiola: I’ll sleep better when I don’t have to stop Neymar!

Pep Guardiola says the task of trying to stop Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar is enough to keep him awake at night.

Manchester City are absent for PSG in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, with neither side having won the famous trophy before.

Guardiola had left Barcelona by the time Neymar arrived at Camp Nou in 2013, the striker ultimately forming a historic front three with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Such is the quality of Neymar, the City boss believes his former club would have won many more Champions League crowns if the Brazilian talisman had not transferred to PSG in 2017.

Guardiola believes there is not much to do against world-class opponents like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and wants City to win the game rather than just stop PSG.

“Always incredible, the quality of these players they have,” Guardiola said. “Defensive strategies [to stop them] do not work. They are too good.

“I tried to sleep well last night and slept when I didn’t think of their players like that!

“They are incredible players, the quality they have, the way they play. We will try to stop them by defending together as a team and playing well as a team.

“We are going to concede counterattacks, they have a lot of weapons.

“We will of course have to adjust something when you play against these players like we did against Tottenham, like we will against Wilfried Zaha. [of Crystal Palace] in the next game.

“But at the same time, it wouldn’t make sense not to be who we are when we step onto this stage for the second time in our history.

“I’m sure we’ll try to be ourselves and get the result we need for the second leg. The best balance is to have the ball. If you have the ball all the time, the balance is there.

“We’re going to concede counter-attacks, it’s impossible [not to]. If you defend Neymar, Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Marquinhos so deeply, they have a lot of weapons.

“They’re used to playing teams that defend 90 minutes and they find a way. It’s not the best way to defend against the team that has everything, it is better to impose your game as we have done for five years.

Neymar has scored (three) or assisted (one) in each of his last three appearances in the Champions League semi-finals.

The striker has also been directly involved in nine goals in his 12 appearances against England’s sides in the competition (five goals, four assists).

Guardiola was impressed with Neymar from the first time he saw him play for Santos.

The former Barca and Bayern Munich boss added: “I remember when I showed clips of Santos, I remember saying: ‘He’s the king of Santos’, and the players’ mouths were open. saying, ‘Oh my god, what a player’.

“It’s a joy to watch as a spectator, the personality he has Brazil on his shoulders.

“I’m sure if Neymar stayed at Barcelona longer he would win a couple more Champions Leagues. These three were unstoppable, the best three I’ve seen early in my life.

“He decided to go to Paris, not a bad decision, a great city and a great club. I want him to have stability, no injuries. I am a big admirer because he has helped improve football. It’s a pleasure to play in a semi-final against PSG. “

Asked about Mbappe, Guardiola replied: “As a young player, he will have the world of football in front of him.

“Already champion of France, World Cup. Quite similar to Erling Haaland in terms of “Wow”, how many goals, pace.

“Looks like a nice guy. Benjamin Mendy is his friend, says he’s a nice guy. We will try to beat them all.

Guardiola was visibly excited on the pitch on Sunday after leading City to a fourth straight EFL Cup triumph with a 1-0 final win over Tottenham.

“Every time you get older you realize that it’s hard to win titles,” he explained.

“If you start the next season telling me I have to win a title, no matter what, I say it’s so hard to do.

“The Carabao is not the most important but it’s so nice to win it.”

PSG, led by Thomas Tuchel in their defeat in the Champions League final last year against Bayern Munich, are winless in their three previous matches with City in European competition (D2 L1).

City are only playing the fourth semi-final in their European history after the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1969-70 and 1970-71, and the Champions League 2015-16.

Ahead of the meeting, PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino described City as “one of the greatest teams in the world” and said he believed they were led by Guardiola’s best coach in the game.

Neymar, meanwhile, insists he feels ‘a lot better’ at PSG than before and has hit back at critics who accused him of unprofessionalism.

PSG are looking to become the ninth team to reach consecutive finals, but Guardiola has beaten Pochettino in 10 of their previous 18 encounters, with five draws and just three losses.


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