Pep Guardiola explains Man City’s tactical approach in Champions League win over Real Madrid

Karl Matchett
Pep Guardiola and Man City beat Real Madrid: AFP via Getty Images

Manchester City came from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola‘s side fell behind after an hour, but responded through Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne to take a big result from the Santiago Bernabeu.

Jesus was then fouled by Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos in the closing stages, resulting in a red card for the Spanish international.

Speaking after the game, Guardiola explained his tactical approach in Madrid and joked it was only the “perfect tactical plan” because City had ended as victors.

With a big second leg still to come, though – as well as other notable matches between now and the return fixture – the City boss naturally stopped short of suggesting the tie was anywhere near over.

“More important is the way we played,” he said. “We tried to win the game and we did it in this stadium, but it’s just the first part. If one team can overcome the situation with their experience, it’s this club – but of course it’s a good result. We could not score the previous two times away from home so it’s a good one.”

Guardiola made a surprising change to his lineup by fielding striker Gabriel Jesus on the left wing. The Brazilian worked hard in his unusual role, before switching back to centre-forward later on – where he scored and was involved in Ramos being sent-off.

His manager laid out his thinking with the plan, suggesting that Real’s aggressiveness from deep areas meant there would be room for Jesus to attack down the channels instead.

“They press so high, we saw it with the centre-backs and there was space outside [them].”

He added: “I watched the most amount of matches of Real Madrid and their defensive game was different. We played without a proper striker because of way they defend. They are so aggressive though the middle and when that happens you have make the pitch wide. We wanted to give diagonals as much as possible."

Sergio Ramos was sent off against Man City (AFP via Getty Images)

Jesus himself said his time at Palmeiras, coming through as a young winger, prepared him for the role he needed to perform at the Bernabeu, while team-mate Kevin de Bruyne felt that Real Madrid’s opener came “at a bad moment” when City were dominant.

The Belgian praised his team-mates for the response and reaction in coming back to win the game and said the focus must now turn to the weekend and recovery for the EFL Cup final, where City will face Aston Villa at Wembley. Guardiola agreed with his captain for the night on both counts.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal; when they were better, we scored a goal! That is football. On Sunday we have a final and then [we’ll] prepare the second game against Madrid.”

City host Real for the second leg on 17 March. Manchester United and Wolves are the only teams to defeat City at the Etihad so far this season across all competitions.

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