Fine EPL form will not be factor in Dortmund clash: Guardiola - GulfToday

Fine EPL form will not be factor in Dortmund clash: Guardiola


Manchester City players during a training session ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first leg match against Dortmund on Tuesday. Courtesy: Twitter

Pep Guardiola praised “exceptional” Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland as he admitted Manchester City could spend the kind of money required to sign a player of his calibre.

City are one of several top clubs linked with a blockbuster move for Haaland in the close-season.

Already well aware of Haaland’s quality, City boss Guardiola has a chance to take a closer look when Dortmund visit the Etihad Stadium for the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.

“He’s exceptional for his age. The numbers speak for themselves,” Guardiola told reporters on Monday.

“He can score right, left, counter attacks, in the box, headers. He’s a fantastic striker, everyone knows it. He’s only 20. To score that many goals at this age, it’s not easy to find a player like that.

“A blind guy can realise he’s a good striker, it’s not necessary to be a manager.”

Although Dortmund are struggling in the Bundesliga, Haaland’s presence means they could pose a significant threat to City’s quadruple bid.

With a third Premier League title in four years a formality for City -- who are in the League Cup final and FA Cup semi-finals -- it is the Champions League that will be their focus in the final weeks of the campaign.

City have never won Europe’s elite club competition and Guardiola last tasted Champions League glory when he was Barcelona boss in 2011.

Criticised for failing to win the Champions League without Barca star Lionel Messi, Guardiola has seen City eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the tournament for the last three years.

The Spaniard admitted last season’s shock last eight defeat against Lyon in Lisbon was especially tough to take. The ghosts of those bitter European defeats were on Guardiola’s mind as he claimed their fine Premier League form would not be a factor against Dortmund.

“Why should we win the other competitions just because we are leading the Premier League?” he said.

“The only concern is to try to win the game. Win this game and after comes Leeds, and after we go to Dortmund to win that game.”

BATTLE OF FALLEN GIANTS: Liverpool’s last dance with Real Madrid ended in painful defeat, with Mohamed Salah’s shoulder dislocated by Sergio Ramos dragging him to the ground and goalkeeper Loris Karius left apologising to his fans after his two errors handed Madrid a 13th European triumph in the 2018 Champions League final.

Karius was ruthlessly cast aside and Alisson Becker signed for a then world record fee for a goalkeeper.

A year later Liverpool were the ones hoisting the Champions League trophy after beating Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. Last season, an even heavier burden was lifted when they were crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.

But those highs have been followed by a fall from grace as Liverpool prepare to face Real again in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Madrid on Tuesday.

After nearly four years without a home league defeat, Liverpool have lost six in a row for the first time in the club’s history.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are in a scrap just to make it into next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Injuries have taken their toll. Captain Jordan Henderson and centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip will all miss both legs of the Real tie and are unlikely to play again this season.

Diogo Jota, who missed a large part of the campaign through injury, is back fit and firing, scoring six times in his last four games for club and country. Thiago Alcantara, who also was on the injured list for long, is starting to find his rhythm, helped by the return of Fabinho to midfield after months of deputising as a makeshift centre-back.

REAL UNDERESTIMATED, SAYS ZIDANE: Real coach Zidane meanwhile will turn again to his tried and trusted for the first leg at Valdebebas, with Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema all three years older than the last time they played Liverpool, and arguably even more important.

Ramos will be denied a reunion with Salah because of a calf injury. Real will also be buoyed by an upturn in form. the kind of late surge that has seen them deliver when it matters in the Champions League. They have also cut faltering Atletico Madrid’s lead in La Liga to three points.

 After beating Eibar in La Liga on Saturday, Zidane struck a confident note.

“I think my team has been underestimated,” said Zidane on Monday. “I trust my team a lot and I know what it can give. But we can’t change what people think. We can only work day by day and while there is still a chance, we never give up.

“We are going to fight for everything. We have had difficult moments this season and now we are better but it doesn’t mean anything tomorrow.”

“We are at a club where every day, every minute we live with pressure,” added Nacho. “We know how to handle it, we try to use it in the best possible way, which is to lift a trophy at the end of the season.”

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