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Champions League collapse not a failure, insists Man City boss Pep Guardiola

By Andy Hampson
Action Images via Reuters

Pep Guardiola has insisted Manchester City’s heartbreaking Champions League semi-final loss was no failure.

The City manager is also determined to keep on trying to deliver European success to the club.

He accepts it may never happen but, having now spent a day reflecting on Wednesday’s dramatic late capitulation against Real Madrid, he maintains he has lost none of his hunger.

“People say if this group of players won’t win the Champions League they will be failures,” said the Spaniard. “I completely disagree.

“We were close – they know it, we know it – but what is important is we are going to try again next season, and then again.

“Maybe I’m not good enough to help the team to do it. Nobody knows what would have happened with other players or managers.

“But for us, it is an honour to be there as much as possible in all competitions. We were not close enough, but we were there and this is my feeling. Next season we will try again.”

City were moments away from booking a place in the final against Liverpool when they were stunned by an astonishing fightback by Real at the Bernabeu.

Maybe I'm not good enough to help the team to do it. Nobody knows what would have happened with other players or managers

Pep Guardiola

Guardiola’s side led 1-0, and 5-3 on aggregate, heading into injury time in their semi-final second leg when Rodrygo scored twice, from Real’s first two shots on target, to force extra time. The Spanish champions then went on to win with a Karim Benzema penalty in extra time.

Guardiola conducted only minimal media duties after the game but was back on form as he launched an impassioned defence of his team and methods at a press conference to preview Sunday’s Premier League game against Newcastle.

“I am always starving,” he said when asked about his hunger for success. “I cannot live one year thinking what my happiness might have been.

“I know the people outside of here demand Champions League, Champions League, Champions League, and we know it, but right now I cannot live (to wonder what might have been).”

Guardiola consoles Phil Foden after City were stunned by Real Madrid’s fightback (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Guardiola revealed he had not yet spoken to his players about what happened on Wednesday.

He said: “We didn’t speak. No words can help for what all of us feel. It is just a question of time, sleep as well as possible and think of the next target.

“Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the first day we are together and we are going to talk about who we are as a team, what we have done in the semi-final, how good we have been, not just in these two games, but all season.

“It is probably one of the moments since I (became) manager I am most proud to be in this club and organisation. Until the last day we are here we give everything together.”

Rodrygo scored twice in the dying moments to send Wednesday’s semi-final into extra time (Bernat Armangue/AP) (AP)

Guardiola dismissed suggestions that his players collapsed mentally in the closing moments at the Bernabeu.

“There is no time for mental,” he said. “It was 45 seconds later – no time to fall down.

“They want to stop the cross, (but it was) deflected from one player, goes to Rodrygo, he scores again. What happened – it’s football. Now we have to accept it.”

The City manager hopes to use the anguish of defeat to spur them on in the future.

He said: “What we lived in Madrid, it will help us as a club, as a team in the future. People now don’t realise but, I tell you, it’s good for us.

“The worst is to not live it. I would love to win the Champions League, to be in the final in Paris, to live that, but we will be better in the future.”

Guardiola will attempt to rouse his side as they turn focus back to the Premier League title race with the visit of Newcastle this weekend.

Champions City have no margin for error as they lead Liverpool by just one point at the top of the table with four games remaining.

They don’t have to forget it. How are we going to forget it?

Pep Guardiola

Guardiola admits the midweek result will still be on players’ minds, but he hopes to channel it to their advantage.

He said: “They don’t have to forget it. How are we going to forget it? We are going to play against Newcastle thinking about that for sure.

“But I know the players in the training sessions and the meeting room, we are going to do it. I don’t have any doubt about that.

“We know there are four games of the Premier League left. The best focus and concentration is simple – Newcastle, no more than that.”

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