Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says his side will be in a for an “incredibly tough” contest when they take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday (Man City 1/3, Draw 9/2, Atletico Madrid 9/1 – Match Result).
City (15/8 to win Champions League) are looking to make it through to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition for the second season in a row and they eased into the last eight with an emphatic 5-0 aggregate success over Sporting Lisbon.
Spanish champions Atleti are likely to provide a much sterner test for the Premier League leaders, with Diego Simeone’s side having eliminated Manchester United in the previous round.
Atleti certainly have plenty of European pedigree, as this is the sixth time in nine seasons they have advanced through to the last eight of the Champions League, twice reaching the final in 2014 and 2016, and Guardiola will certainly not be underestimating the Madrid giants (Man City 1/4, Atletico Madrid 3/1 – To Qualify).
“They are Champions of the Spanish league,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference.
“Spain, in the last decade, have had more teams reach the final and win the Champions League. They are the champions. I admire their consistency.
“Twice they win La Liga when normally Barcelona and Real Madrid control it. They have been to two Champions League finals which means they know how to handle knock-out stages.
“All the teams are incredibly tough. You face Atletico Madrid or another team who is tough, too.”
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Guardiola has also refused to criticise Atleti’s style of play under Simeone, as he feels labelling them purely as a defensive team is unfair.
“There is a misconception about the way he (Diego Simeone) plays,” the 51-year-old added.
“It’s more offensive than people believe. He doesn’t want to take a risk in the build-up but they are very good in the final third.”
City have a near fully fit squad to choose from for Tuesday’s first leg, with the only players set to miss out being Ruben Dias (hamstring) and Cole Palmer (foot), while Kyle Walker is suspended.
Tuesday’s match will kickstart a potentially season-defining 11-day period for City, as during that time they will also face the return match with Atleti, as well as two games against Liverpool, one being in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup.