Manchester City will need the “perfect game” against Liverpool if they are to save their Champions League campaign, according to manager Pep Guardiola.
City face the daunting prospect of overturning a 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their quarter-final tie at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, after goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane put Liverpool in control.
Guardiola will set his team out to create as many chances as possible, but does not want to see heads drop if they fail to make early in-roads in their quest for unlikely progression.
He told a pre-match news conference: “Of course, to go through you have to make almost the perfect game, create a lot of chances, be clinical, and the chances we’re going to receive, defend well and the keeper save it.
“We have to make almost the perfect game because the result is tough. You have 90 minutes and everything can happen and only we can do is try and we will see.
“We don’t have to think about how many goals, we have to score the first then think about the second, and after we will see if we can keep that momentum.
“Every time we play Liverpool we know each other, maybe we will be closer to playing better to beat them. We cannot forget it’s just a simple game and focus on every single minute what we need to do.
“It’s the best way to play the game and if we concede a goal, don’t give up. It’s more than 90 minutes but we showed many times, in a short period we can create chances and you have to be clinical. But if we’re not clinical we have to think, next one, next one, next one.”
Guardiola reiterated it may be too soon for City to win the Champions League, but acknowledged how important overcoming Liverpool in the quarter-finals could prove to his desire for long-term success.
He said: “We need titles in Europe but that is so complicated. To win titles we need nights like… to beat Barcelona last season was so special because we know Barcelona is the best team in the world and you create something by beating them.
“Sooner or later it is going to happen, maybe not tomorrow, but with what this club has done in the last 10 years, in terms of creating facilities with a lot of investment, sooner or later that is going to happen.
“In all the clubs in the world you need a lot of time. Hopefully we can do it, maybe it will be next season, but sooner or later that’s going to happen in the club.
“I think to reach the semi-final would be the second time in our beautiful history. I don’t have to talk too much about motivation, the way they play all season shows what they want to do.
“I know we want to judge the result but the performances? My team is extraordinary, it’s not comparable to many others. It’s exceptional, it’s top, I will be close to them until the end of the season.”
City’s hopes of getting the goals needed will be boosted if Sergio Aguero is declared fit to start.
The Argentine came off the bench on Saturday but was unable to stop the Premier League leaders slipping to a dramatic 3-2 loss to arch-rivals Manchester United, though he perhaps should have earned a penalty when he was on the receiving end of a heavy challenge from Ashley Young.
Asked whether Aguero would be fit to start or if the tackle had led to a setback, Guardiola responded sarcastically.
“He was diving,” came the rather terse response, with no update on Aguero’s condition.