Now or never: With Haaland, Guardiola under pressure to win Champions League for City

 Now or never: With Haaland, Guardiola under pressure to win Champions League for City

Pep Guardiola’s genius has never been in doubt.

From Barcelona to Bayern Munich and now Manchester City, the Spanish football gaffer has demonstrated his tactical and managerial acumen in the last decade.

Before his foray into the English Premier League (EPL), there were claims that he would struggle to succeed with his possession-based ideology due to the intensity of the league.

However, he has so far silenced his critics to a large extent.

Since he joined City in 2016, the 52-year-old has won four out of five available EPL titles, while his team enjoys dominance in the league.

But one trophy has eluded him since he left Barcelona — the UEFA Champions League.

At Bayern Munich, he fought to clinch the trophy without success, and at City, he is facing a similar challenge.

The high expectations for Guardiola are as a result of the standard he has set for himself over the years and the depth of squad always at this disposal.

At Barcelona, he had arguably the best team in the history of the game inspired by the heroics of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta.

He had similar squad depth at Bayern led by the electric duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry.

At City, he has a squad capable of winning any trophy in the world, and with the addition of Erling Haaland, Guardiola faces increased pressure to deliver for the team on Europe’s biggest stage.

In recent years, Guardiola’s experimental approach at crucial stages of the competition has cost him and his team the coveted trophy.

In 2021, for instance, City were the favourites in the final against Chelsea but his decision to start the game without a natural holding midfielder complicated what would have been an easy match for his team.

With Haaland at his disposal, this season is his best chance to prove his mettle again on the biggest stage.

The Norwegian offers Gurdiola’s team new options to punish opponents and possesses surreal abilities to grind out result against the odds.

With 39 goals for City across all competitions this season, Haaland is the man of the moment. His five goals against RB Leipzig was symptomatic of his prolific form.

Haaland is also aware of his mission at City — to deliver the Champions League for the team.

“Of course the club want to win the Champions League, they want to still win trophies. They won the Premier League four times out of the last five years so they didn’t bring me in to win the Premier League – they know how to win the Premier League,” he said on Tuesday.

“So, you can read between the lines. But I’m here to try to help the club develop even more, to try to win the Champions League for the first time.”

On several occasions, Guardiola have attempted to avoid conversations around why he is yet to win the Champions League for City despite the club’s huge investments.

“It’s not about that. I would like to win it, it’s not an obsession, it’s a dream, a target we can do. I’m completely aware how good the opponents are and how difficult this competition is. I said many times, maybe people don’t believe me or think I’m making an excuse, I didn’t come here to win the Champions League,” he had said last year.

“I’m the first to want it, [but] it was the same in Munich. In Barcelona we won it twice, I wanted to win four! The 30 or 40 seasons where I’m a manager, I want to win every single Champions League, [but] I don’t feel a failure when we don’t win it.”

The 52-year-old must come to terms with expectations from his team this season. There is no doubt that a Champions League trophy will define his era at City.

City may still be in the race for the EPL but anything short of Champions League trophy will be seen as a failure for Guardiola.

For a coach of his standing, he cannot afford to fail again this season.

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