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Pep: Man City ‘in big trouble’ after Atletico triumph
Pep Guardiola says the injuries Manchester City sustained in their Champions League victory at Atletico Madrid have left his treble-chasing side in “big trouble” heading into the run-in.
A goalless draw in the Spanish capital sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory and saw City set up a third semi-final appearance in the club’s history – against 13-time winners Real Madrid.
But with Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool looming, City’s progress came at a cost, with Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker forced off injured, and Phil Foden requiring a bandage to his head at the Wanda Metropolitano.
“We are in big trouble,” Guardiola told BT Sport. “We cannot forget we played three days ago a tough game against Liverpool. We came here, we have a lot of injuries.
“I don’t know what will happen in the next weeks but today we are going to celebrate. It is the third time in Manchester City’s history we are in the semi-finals of the Champions League, and it is a big success for us to be there.”
Guardiola did not mention how severe the injuries were, while he also claimed he had “nothing to say” on the ugly scenes which marred his side’s progression on Wednesday night.
The match ended in rancour and bitterness with scuffles on the field and in the tunnel.
First a melee involving numerous players from both sides broke out on the field after Felipe kicked out at Foden. Amongst the trouble Atletico defender Stefan Savic pulled unused City substitute Jack Grealish’s hair after the pair exchanged words. Felipe was sent off for his involvement.
The problems continued after the teams left the field with players needing to be separated in the tunnel. TV footage showed objects being thrown and police reportedly became involved to restore order.
Asked about the incidents in his post-match press conference, Guardiola simply said he had “nothing to say”. Pressed further in relation to the head injury sustained by Foden in another poor challenge from Felipe in the first half, Guardiola said: “I don’t talk about referees or the opponents either.”
There was also a suggestion Guardiola had liquid thrown at him as he headed for the tunnel. He said: “Everyone saw the action, but I have nothing to say.”
Guardiola preferred to focus on the determined effort of his players to claim a result amid fierce provocation and an intimidating atmosphere.
“They pushed us a lot,” Guardiola said. “Atletico were excellent in the second half and we forgot to play. We were in big trouble, and they had chances to score.
“We had one or two clear chances in the first half but in the second half of the second leg they were much better. But at the same time we defended with everything.
“We had to adapt. We could not have the ball and we felt the pressure. We are in the semi-finals and it is an incredible achievement for our club.”
How the papers reacted to Atletico meltdown
On a night where Atletico Madrid went out of the Champions League after an ill-tempered draw, the British media criticised Simeone’s squad for their actions.
Daily Mirror sports writer Mike Walters tweeted on Wednesday night: “Imagine supporting a team managed by Simeone, including Felipe and Savic, and actually wanting them to win. What a bunch of animals.”
Meanwhile, Daily Mail football writer Jack Gaughan, who was at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, described Atleti’s actions as “genuinely disgraceful” while Martin Samuel from the same paper branded the Spanish side as “sore losers”.
TalkSPORT host Adrian Durham added on Twitter: “Simeone’s Atleti are absolutely lawless. Delighted they’re out,” while writer Paul Hayward added: “All that bluster and snarl and Atletico couldn’t score in either leg. Savic and Felipe: horrible.”
However, there was a drastically different reaction to Atletico’s performance in the Spanish newspapers on Thursday morning, where Simeone’s side were praised for their display.
Marca went with the headline “heart without the prize”, adding that “Atletico tried until the end against a City side that did not play for anything”, while AS wrote that “a great Atletico were one step away from forcing extra time against a shrunken City.”
In their player ratings from the game, Marca also stated that “the world needs a leader like Savic” following a performance which saw him spark a melee between both sets of players by manhandling Foden, while he also appeared to headbutt Sterling and pulled the hair of Grealish.
Manchester City’s fixture schedule:
To be confirmed: Wolves (a) Premier League
April 16 – Liverpool (Wembley) FA Cup semi-finals
April 20 – Brighton (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 23 – Watford (h) Premier League
April 26/27 – Real Madrid Champions League SF first leg
April 30 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 3/4 – Real Madrid Champions League SF second leg
May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – FA Cup final *
May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Aston Villa (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress