Pep Guardiola hoping "stupid tactics" and Atletico insight kickstart crucial Man City run

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Pep Guardiola cut a relaxed figure ahead of the seismic run of games that will define Manchester City’s season.

Over the next 11 days, City will twice face Atletico Madrid and title rivals Liverpool, four matches that will effectively make or break their campaign. With so much at stake, Guardiola could be forgiven for feeling the heat, but was in a playful mood, sarcastically dismissing the notion he overthinks at the business end of the Champions League.

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In last year’s final against Chelsea, Guardiola played without a holding midfielder as City lost 1-0, while in the quarter-finals against Lyon a year earlier, he switched to a back three and suffered a 3-1 defeat.

Against that backdrop, Guardiola was asked about the perception of him overthinking, the City boss seizing on the chance to hit back at his critics with an answer dripping in sarcasm.

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“In the Champions League I always overthink,” said Guardiola. “I always create new tactics and ideas, and tomorrow you will see a new one. I overthink a lot, that’s why I have very good results in the Champions League. I love it. It would be boring if I always played the same way.

“If people think I will play the same against Atletico and Liverpool, I don’t think like that, because the movements from Liverpool are completely different than Atletico – especially because the players are all different. That’s why I love to overthink and create stupid tactics and, when we don’t win, I’m punished. Tonight I will take inspiration and I’m going to do incredible tactics tomorrow. We’ll play with 12 tomorrow.”

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What is certain is City are facing arguably the most obdurate opponents left in the draw, in Diego Simeone’s Spanish champions.

Atletico are known for their belligerent approach, as Manchester United found to their cost in going out to them in the last 16. Simeone’s side have won their last six games, conceding just three goals, with Guardiola acknowledging the threat they pose at this stage of the tournament.

© Manchester City FC via Getty Images Pep Guardiola was in a playful mood facing the press

“They know how to handle the knockout stages of this competition,” said Guardiola. “I think there’s a misconception about the way Atletico play. It’s more offensive than people believe.

“They don’t want to take risks in the build-up, but after that they have quality and play really well in the final third. They know how they have to play in these moments. It depends on the game – winning or losing, last minutes or early minutes. In these moments, they’re really good.”

Having reached last season’s final, Guardiola knows the pressure is on him to lead his players all the way to the one trophy to so far elude him at City, one he won twice as Barcelona coach. Guardiola was hired by City to win the Champions League and, as he attempts to do for the sixth time, he knows the flak that will come his way if he falls short again.

“I’m a visionary when I win, but when I lose people say ‘who does this guy think he is?’” said Guardiola. “I don’t win the games – it’s the players. I take responsibility on my shoulders like all managers, but I tell the players ‘you are the guys who have to win out there’. They’ve done it before and they have to do it again.”

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