Manchester City v Bayern Munich: Pep Guardiola prepares to meet old foe Manuel Pellegrini
Bayern Munich manager shrugs off criticism and praises Manchester City's prospects ahead of reunion
Wednesday 02 October 2013
There were many in Manchester who imagined Pep Guardiola sitting in the sleek leather chairs in the press room of the Etihad Stadium, although they would have hoped he would have stayed for more than a couple of days.
Guardiola would have been the ultimate trophy bride for Sheikh Mansour's football project but to walk through the Bayern Munich museum and see each Bundesliga shield, DFB Pokal and the five European Cups in their backlit individual cases is to realise there were other, better suitors.
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It was the 100th day since he began in Bavaria and, despite the fact that Bayern Munich have yet to lose in the Bundesliga and won their opening Champions League fixture in Moscow 3-0, the questions had an edge to them. Guardiola was reminded of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's comments that "he had no balls" – basically for preferring Lionel Messi to Zlatan's monumental ego – and of some sharp comments by Bayern's own sporting director.
Matthias Sammer is not a man who minces words. Just before Bayern Munich flew to London for the Champions League final he laughed when asked if he would be interested in signing Wayne Rooney. Last month, after a laboured 2-0 win over Hannover, Sammer complained that Bayern had produced a soulless performance and their tactics lacked pace and direction.
As the team gathered at Munich Airport, where Franck Ribéry discovered he had forgotten his passport, Die Zeit printed a reply from the Bayern captain, Philipp Lahm, saying Sammer had overstepped the mark.
Guardiola is, however, not just one of the finest coaches in world football, he is among the most charming. An awkward press conference was effortlessly defused.
"It has not been easy because the Bundesliga is completely different to what I was used to," said Guardiola, whose English, honed during his sabbatical in New York, is better than his German. "There are thousands of trophies in the museum and one title more or one title less is not a big thing at Bayern but how you win is.
"I enjoy my work when my team plays well and, until now, we have played well in one or two games and in bits in the others. But it is impossible to play well without midfielders. I love midfielders and, if I had my chance, I would buy thousands. They give a team its intelligence. You can win games with defenders or strikers but to play well you need good midfielders.
"I have not been able to play Mario Götze [who was injured in the victory over Chelsea in the Super Cup]. I have lost Thiago Alcantara to injury while Bastian Schweinsteiger has taken part in 25 of the 200 or so training sessions we have had. That has left me with just Toni Kroos."
For Manuel Pellegrini this is a second severe examination of his managerial credentials. The first, against Manchester United, was a spectacular statement of intent and City are likely to adopt similar tactics.
They have won all four of their matches at the Etihad by a collective scoreline of 15-1 and Edin Dzeko remarked that if they play the way they did against United "with fast, attacking football, then why shouldn't we go forward against Bayern?"
The last German club to come here, Borussia Dortmund, expressed their contempt for the way Manchester City had bought their success but Guardiola was much more complimentary. "I am 100 per cent sure they will get out of their group this time," he said. "And if they do, City will be very, very difficult to beat. They could be like Dortmund, who failed to get out their group two seasons ago but, when they did last year, they went all the way to the final."
Bayern Munich versus Manchester City two autumns ago summed up the club under Roberto Mancini in the Champions League, at least. They were out of their depth. There was a row, first as Dzeko was hauled off and then a spectacular and long-lasting bust-up as Carlos Tevez refused his manager's orders to warm up.
Dzeko pointedly remarked when comparing Mancini with his successor: "The important thing for a player is to know his manager believes in him. That confidence can change everything."
This will be the ninth time Manuel Pellegrini has met Guardiola and there have been seven losses and a draw. "The numbers are not important," said Guardiola. "I would like to coach like him because his sides always play the same way. They look to win and his fingerprints, his trademark, is always on his teams. Villarreal, Malaga and Real Madrid all played the same way. If I beat him, it was because I was at Barcelona and had one of the best teams in the world at my disposal. That is all."
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Referee B Kuipers (Neth)
Vieira's boys taught to be tough
The new philosophy in the academy side Patrick Vieira has just taken over at Manchester City decrees that they will play the same intense passing style as the first team, no matter what the opposition – even Bayern Munich, who they meet in their Uefa Youth League group.
There is bravery attached to such a notion because when young players are being beaten, the temptation is to abandon the passing and just survive. "At this age we accept mistakes because mistakes will help you progress and improve," Vieira told The Independent. "I want them to be brave. The time for them to make a mistake is now, not when they are in the first team. Because they are good players it is about giving them the confidence to be clear about the methods we want."
British Eurosport HD will broadcast exclusive live coverage of Manchester City v Bayern Munich in the Uefa Youth League. Live coverage is also available via eurosportplayer.com
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