Pep Guardiola lifts lid on Man City squad atmosphere as season heats up

Pep Guardiola says his Manchester City players are thriving on the pressure as the season reaches a thrilling climax. The Blues face Southampton in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, and then after the international break and a trip to Burnley, face a huge week which involved the two legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid wrapped around the Premier League showdown with Liverpool.

Guardiola says he is loving the challenge, and that his players are also lapping up the enormity of the upcoming games. Asked whether he still gets a kick out of being in the thick of things at this stage of the season, Guardiola smiled and said: “Absolutely. You cannot imagine the canteen watching the (Champions League) draw together.

“This is the moment we are here, go out to training joking about who we are going to face – the disappointment for some players, Rodri is happy to go back to Atletico Madrid and see his friends. It’s so nice. We fought since pre-season to arrive there and we are still there. It makes me happy. I know everyone wants to win the Premier League and Champions League but right now where we came from makes me so proud.

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“My expectations are so high but during the process I’m satisfied. When we go to Peterborough and win and go to Southampton, I give the credit and congratulate the team. I know how difficult it is. “

Guardiola’s message to his players, and the rest of the club, is to enjoy these moments, as they will not last forever. He said: “I try to say to the club enjoy that moment during the season, don’t wait to win the Premier League or Champions League or FA Cup to be happy.

“Tomorrow we’re going to be here and enjoy the day, enjoy the moment being in the elite eight best teams in Europe and fight to be in the best four because one day maybe you will not be here and we will be out of the group stage or last 16. It has happened. Before when I started Champions League it was quarter-final or semi-final. Now, qualify for the CL next season – that’s the first step. Today it is difficult to do this.

“After, go to the last 16. Staying in the Champions League next season is a huge success, enormous. Go to the last-16? You cannot imagine, not just financially but for how difficult it is. You have to make a lot of good things to do it. Look at the last decade, at the top clubs who are not living there or are not in the last 16. “

And he tools swipe at the knee-jerk reactions to results which infects some elements of the support – with the gloom merchants out in force following last week’s 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace that allowed Liverpool to more within a point at the top of the table: “Dropping points at Crystal Palace can happen,” he said. “People believe we are Manchester City, we have to be 10 points in front of Liverpool? Ok, it’s your message I don’t buy it.

“How you. behave and play at Crystal Palace and Southampton counts. If we lose, that’s football. It’s football. You have to try an explanation for something there is not an explanation for. When Atletico played United, the first action from (Anthony) Elanga and it hit the keeper in the head. If it is here [not his head] it is a goal and it is another game. Maybe United go through.

“We find as a manager you [have to] try and find an explanation for that. It is little details. How you behave, how you play, how you try is what counts in the long-term. “

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