LEIPZIG: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola joked he could throw caution to the wind to finish off Leipzig in the Champions League by fielding “nine strikers”.
City were held to a 1-1 draw in Germany on Wednesday in the first leg of their last 16 tie with Riyad Mahrez’s opener cancelled out by a header from Josko Gvardiol.
“I didn’t want to come here and lose 4-3. It will have to be more open in Manchester,” said Guardiola who coached Bayern Munich to Bundesliga titles in each of his three years in Germany and said City “could not compete” with the speed of German teams.
“We don’t have the team to compete with them with a lot of transitions, they are better than us and they are faster than us, except Kyle (Walker) and Erling (Haaland).
“The pace they have, we don’t have it.”
Guardiola added: “Maybe in the second leg I will be crazy and decide to play with nine strikers. But I’ve coached in this country and I analysed Leipzig and I needed this type of control.”
The City manager gathered his team together on the pitch for an impromptu motivational session after the final whistle in an attempt to lift their spirits.
“They had their heads down, I told them ‘Why are your heads down, put your heads up,” the Spanish manager told the post-match press conference.
“It was a really good game the game you played. If people don’t like it, it doesn’t matter, you played the game the way it should be played.”
The City manager said the Champions League “used to be quite easy”, but is now “such a demanding competition”.
“All of the teams in all of the leagues are really strong.”
Leipzig manager Marco Rose revealed how his half-time talk, which “started quietly and ended up a little bit louder”, pushed his players to stop “playing City’s game.”
“I told them ‘what are you doing, coming into a game like this and standing deep – that wasn’t the plan.”
Rose said he was confident ahead of the second leg in Manchester on March 14, but admitted “to go to City, we’d rather have a 3-0 advantage to feel better.”
“We can take plenty out of the game so that we can not play another first half like we did today.”
Gvardiol ‘will stay a Leipzig player’
RB Leipzig manager Marco Rose said sought-after centre-back Josko Gvardiol “is our player and will stay our player”.
Gvardiol headed in Leipzig’s second-half equaliser and also kept City star Erling Haaland in check on an unhappy evening for the Norway forward.
In his second season in Leipzig since moving from Dynamo Zagreb, Gvardiol’s form for Leipzig, as well as his performances at the World Cup for Croatia, has reportedly made him a target of several European clubs.
Gvardiol was recently quoted in the German media saying “I might be out the door after Christopher (Nkunku)” in reference to the French striker’s reported deal with Chelsea.
Rose, however, shot down speculation the defender could be off to the Premier League, saying “the headlines don’t seem to be bothering him”.
“He’s a RB Leipzig player, I think he’ll stay a player for RB Leipzig.
“In the story, he said that about Christopher, but he laughed – of course, in the newspaper, you don’t see the laugh.
“He said he likes it here and he feels comfortable here. As a trainer you want to work with the best players.”