Pep can’t afford CL exit


During his four years in charge of Barcelona, Guardiola won Europe’s elite competition twice and reached two semi-finals. Despite his domestic success in Spain, it was to some extent the Champions League that defined him.

This, for example, is one of the reasons he is so coveted by Manchester City. For the Barclays Premier League champions, European success may not quite be the final frontier but it is certainly the next one.

How unfortunate for Guardiola, then, that his second season at Bayern Munich could today take a turn for the unexpected.

If last season’s 5-0 aggregate defeat by Real Madrid in the last four hinted at some issues with his team, then last week’s 3-1 defeat at Porto in a remarkable quarter-final first leg was the kind of result that can unsettle stomachs very quickly in Bavaria.

‘This is a big club, so you can’t say we are in a cosy situation,’ said Guardiola yesterday. ‘If you win, you’re a genius. If you lose you have lots of problems, but that’s the nature of my job.

‘We are just a few steps away (from winning) the German Cup and the German league. If we win on Saturday against Berlin, we’ll be champions. That impresses me when I see how many problems we have had.

‘But I know which club I am at, it isn’t enough to win the Bundesliga and the Cup. Only a treble is enough, but I am proud to be here with these players.’

Guardiola will confirm successive Bundesliga titles in the coming days. But German football’s self-image depends on two things: the success of its national team and the progress of its one stellar club in Europe.

With the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga hoarding an increasing amount of money and attention, it is Bayern keeping the Bundesliga relevant.

Last week’s reverse in Portugal was comprehensive. Bayern were missing key men but were unexpectedly awful. Since then, their esteemed club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt has walked out, supposedly in protest at Guardiola’s apparent tendency to blame the medical department for injuries to important players.

It has, therefore, been a strange week that has seen questions asked not only of Guardiola’s team but also of his own working practices. The 44-year-old was even asked at his official Uefa press conference yesterday if he expected to be at the club next season.

‘My future is: Wednesday free, Thursday training and, of course, next year to be here. That’s my future,’ said Guardiola, who is set to be without Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger again at the Allianz Arena tonight.

‘But I am convinced that my players will take their chances in this game. We have to take more risks after the first-leg result, but I am happy to be here in this stage of the competition.

‘It makes no sense to be on the pitch if you don’t want to turn it around.’

With Guardiola expected to leave Bayern at the end of his contract in the summer of 2016, there is an assumption he will come to City. Those who have grown to know him here, however, are not so sure.

The lure of the Premier League will, it is presumed, bring him to England but some believe that Arsenal — and the chance to live and work in London — is a stronger magnet.

Tonight he must hope for something convincing, something concrete from which to move forward. In Porto yesterday, hundreds of fans turned out at the airport to wish their team well.

The atmosphere was of the carnival variety. In Bavaria, the mood is a little different. – Daily Mail

Original source: Pep can’t afford CL exit