Pep Guardiola Cautious of Real Madrid UCL Comeback, Talks 10 Days of Planning

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2020

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City shakes hands with Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Bernabeu on February 26, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Real Madrid are capable of a second-leg turnaround after his side came from behind to win 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. He also said a meticulous 10 days of planning helped seal a historic win for his club. 

Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne each scored in the final 12 minutes of their UEFA Champions League last-16 clash in Madrid where Isco had put the hosts ahead after an hour.

The two teams reconvene at the Etihad Stadium on March 17, and Guardiola told reporters Zinedine Zidane's side—who won three straight European crowns between 2016 and 2018—are capable of a comeback. Asked whether the two-legged tie was over, he replied:

"No. If there's a team that can come back against anything, it's Real Madrid.

"We conceded a goal when we were the better team, and then we scored when they were the better team. But the Champions League is like this: ups and downs.

"[Thibaut] Courtois was immense. It's a good result because we scored two goals. We've won nothing, but winning at the Bernabeu is very satisfying, because we're not used to these things."

Vinicius Jr. teed up Isco to break the deadlock, but De Bruyne showed great composure to find Jesus inside the box for City's first (U.S. viewers only):

Raheem Sterling—who had been injured prior to the first leg—came on and won the deciding penalty in the 82nd minute. De Bruyne converted, and Real's hopes of advancing diminished further after captain Sergio Ramos was shown a late red card (U.S. viewers only):

Ajax knocked Los Blancos out of the Champions League at this stage of the competition last year, while City are targeting their third consecutive run to the quarter-finals.

Guardiola's tactics and personnel selection appeared to set his side up in a more defensive manner, with Sergio Aguero benched in favour of the more workmanlike Jesus. He spoke about his research and strategising ahead of the clash, per James Robson of the Evening Standard:

"We had 10 free days, and in those days I watched the most amount of matches of Real Madrid, their defensive game was different. That's why we changed, the space was to attack, but never since I've been a coach have I gone to defend.

"Maybe I provide too much information. I have to know the opponents, they press a lot. They did that in the Camp Nou, and I thought they'd do it at home. They steal the balls and make passes, you see after conceding the goal, you have to protect."

The heat map of Jesus showed the striker stuck largely to the left wing and was a big factor in defence, while winger Bernardo Silva roamed, sometimes as a less conventional frontman, per WhoScored.com.

Spanish football writer Guillem Balague remarked upon Guardiola's efforts to exploit the wide areas using Jesus in an altered role:

The Athletic's Sam Lee praised the level of research conducted by the Citizens boss, whose side became the first English team to win at the Bernabeu since Liverpool in February 2009:

Zidane finds himself in an unfamiliar position with his side chasing the game following the home leg. Real have only one win from their last five games across all competitions and have now lost their last two in a row.

Guardiola emerged as victor in the first competitive meeting between the pair as managers, but City's coach remains wary of succumbing to a comeback himself when the two teams clash again in three weeks.

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