Pep Guardiola labeled Real Madrid the kings of the Champions League as the former Barcelona boss prepares to lead his Manchester City side against the club he wants to emulate.
City travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday for their Champions League last-16 first-leg clash with Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid and Guardiola highlighted the relative inexperience of his players when it comes to winning European titles.
Madrid emerged as champions in four of the last six editions of the Champions League and have retained many of the players who spearheaded those triumphs, while Claudio Bravo and Scott Carson are the only City players to have won the competition.
City manager Guardiola cast aside his intense rivalry with Madrid, which dates back to his time as Barca head coach, and told reporters: “I have incredible admiration for this club.
“The players who have played there have played so many times in the [Champions League] final and I don’t know how many times each one has lifted it.
“Maybe Claudio [Bravo] has won the Champions League and someone else. We don’t have many players who have won it. But we need the desire to win it and be ourselves, We could win it or lose it.
“But we must be ourselves in the 180 minutes against Real Madrid. It is the real, real test.”
Madrid face City having failed to win either of their last two matches and Zidane’s men will be under pressure to recover from a 1-0 LaLiga defeat at Levante on Saturday.
In contrast, City go into the game on the back of two straight Premier League wins without conceding a goal, but Guardiola said Madrid’s historic success in the Champions League would be a factor in the tie.
“You have players who come to Madrid and pull on the shirt, they know they are defending their history,” said Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as coach of Barcelona. “That makes an extra thing. Not just the spectators and media.
“They are the club we want to emulate and imitate and we have to be there. I want to go there and at the end of the game I want to say ‘we were what we are’. This is the most important thing in these types of competitions.
“We need to go and try and do it at one of the biggest, nicest and most prestigious stadiums. After that, we will try our weapons and try to score the goals. If we cannot, we will congratulate them and try and improve for the next time.
“For us being here is exciting, so good and we will try to do our best, knowing we play against a team who have won 13 Champions Leagues and it is a king.”