Guardiola makes telling admission on how to stop PSG ahead of Messi reunion

Samuel Bannister

Pep Guardiola has admitted that he is unsure how Manchester City will be able to stop the star-studded front three of Paris Saint-Germain, despite praising how his own side’s defensive record has improved.

Fresh from winning their most recent Premier League match against current Champions League holders Chelsea, Man City are back in European action this week. Their second match of the Champions League group stage puts them up against PSG on Tuesday.

The away match in Paris will arguably be the toughest match in Group A for a City side who already put six past RB Leipzig on matchday one. PSG have dominated French football over the past decade and strengthened their squad significantly over the summer.

The headline addition, of course, was Lionel Messi, who joined on a free transfer after it became clear that Barcelona were unable to register him again.

Messi was unavailable for PSG in their most recent Ligue 1 match, but is back in training ahead of the City clash. He will obviously be one to keep an eye on if he plays, especially given his past association with Guardiola at Barca.

Guardiola will not find it too strange to be going up against his former star, but did give his take on Messi’s strange summer.

Lionel Messi Mauricio Pochettino PSG September 2021

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: “It happened when I was in Bayern, normally is difficult to find one long career as a player at the same manager all his career. Played against Bayern and when I was here at City.

“It was a surprise for everyone, what happened happened. Everyone now accepts it. Long time ago you couldn’t imagine, but it happened. Life itself you never know what happens. Important is he’ll be happy there in Paris.

“I think this type of player speaks for itself on the pitch, I don’t have to add anything else. We were fortunate to see him during this 16 years, Messi speaks for itself. Not have to describe him or talk about him. His career is exceptional. Hopefully tomorrow he can play for the benefit of the game.”

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If fit, Messi will likely form part of the sensational front three alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. The trio are still clicking despite their huge individual talent – and Guardiola knows they will be tough to stop if they get in sync.

He said of the PSG attack: “I don’t know this amount of quality, I don’t know how to stop them. They are so good, the talent to control they are so difficult. You have to defend well without the ball and let them run when we have the ball.

“They are exceptional players, everyone knows it, all of them so good. Individually and they combine so good.”

Guardiola discusses defence

Man City manager Pep Guardiola looking dejected

City’s backline will have to be at their best to stop PSG. But Guardiola has been happy with how they have improved in that department in recent years.

John Stones underwent a revival last season alongside impressive 2020 signing Ruben Dias. In addition, Aymeric Laporte remains a strong option and has enjoyed some gametime in the opening weeks of the season.

Guardiola believes there is a unity in the City defensive third that has been building over time.

He reflected: “The season for the emergency with Laporte and John injured, play Fernandinho in that position as an alternative but we suffered. Always we defend well, we don’t defend well because we don’t have good defenders, it’s because everyone puts the spirit for each other.

“The only thing I understand from the beginning is defending depends on the will of the players, running when you have the ball. We have the desire to help, it’s the way you’re in this position to play well. Most of the time together we do it well. At the end we try to do it well.

“Football you have to do with the ball, playing, the most important thing is how many chances we concede during the game. This is a good information to know how is the bite of the team. In general it’s good. Still we can do better.”

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Stones is yet to play this season due to a couple of physical issues. Guardiola, though, is still counting on the England international, who signed a long-term contract extension over the summer.

The manager said: “He needs minutes; everyone needs minutes. He arrives late, then gets injured. Aymer and Ruben play so good like him and Ruben last year. After he came back, one week 10 days he’s training normally. At the same time Ruben and Aymer play so good.

“The season is so long. I know he’ll be ready. He’ll have the minutes and show the quality he has.

“Sometimes you have to wait like last season Aymer had to wait then when he played played so good in the cups and Premier League when he played. Now Ruben and Aymer and playing so good.”

In addition to Stones’ physical problems, Guardiola confirmed Ilkay Gundogan is unlikely to return from injury until after the October international break.

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