Pep Guardiola knows that his team can be more defensive now. Speaking to Thierry Henry for CBS Sports' UEFA Champions League Today Pre-Match Show, Guardiola explained why he's more reliant on his defenders now.
"You cannot play 80, 90 minutes, or try to play a lot of minute, and be open in that way. And conceding every time you lose the ball and make a transition. That would be silly. But now the defense is...." [Manuel] Akanji is a proper defender...has incredibly focus, Kyle [Walker] has the ability to defend the most dangerous wingers in the world.....Be a good defender, I consider it the biggest talent in football. And now we have players who enjoy defending."
Guardiola has challenged Kevin De Bruyne to deliver "the best game of his life" against Inter on Saturday. Guardiola praised his star midfielder, joking that he cannot understand the vision of his star playmaker, a player without whom, he says, City would not have enjoyed the enormous success they have over recent years.
"He's a special person, so sensitive and reliable in many things," Guardiola said. "What we have done in many seasons, without him it would be impossible.
De Bruyne has been in customarily outstanding form for City in a season that has seen them win the Premier League and FA Cup; Guardiola's side now stand one game away from becoming just the second English team to win the Treble. In 47 games across all competitions this season, the 31 year old has delivered 10 goals and 31 assists.
"I said to Kevin, be angry, be upset, shout. Sometimes when he's flat, sometimes you have to, on the pitch, have a bad face. Sometimes he's too nice, so nice, a lovely, lovely guy. When a guy is thinking more about making assists than scoring goals, it means how generous you are. He is. He's happy making assists and [leaving] the compliments for the other ones.
"He doesn't have highlights for the media? It's ok, he's happy. It's just sometimes I say 'come on Kevin, show me. Show me in the final of the Champions League how good you are, how important you are. Make the best game of your life on that day.'"
De Bruyne's relationship with Guardiola has certainly had its flashpoints over the past seven years, most notably when television cameras caught the Belgian telling his coach to "shut up" during last month's 4-0 win over City in the Champions League semifinal second leg. Speaking earlier this week, he dismissed any suggestion of serious tension between him and his boss. "I think occasionally more is made of players or trainers saying something. It's never personal," said De Bruyne. "In the end, everyone always wants to get the best out of each other."
Make sure to catch the full interview on the CBS Sports UEFA Champions League Pre-Match Show, and don't miss wall-to-wall coverage of Europe's biggest game of the season across CBS and Paramount+ platforms.
Saturday's broadcast schedule
All times ET
- 12 p.m.: Morning Footy - UCL Edition (CBS Sports Golazo Network)
- 1:30 p.m.: UEFA Champions League Today Pre-Match Show (CBS/Paramount+)
- 3 p.m.: Manchester City vs. Inter Milan (CBS/Paramount+)
- 5:30 p.m.: UEFA Champions League Today Post-Match Show (CBS/Paramount+)
- 6:30 p.m.: The Champions Club (CBS Sports Golazo Network)