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Key Man City duo doubtful for Champions League semi as Pep sends message to players

Pep Guardiola has urged his players to play the team rather than the club as Manchester City prepare to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, although two top stars could be missing.

City host the 13-time European champions in the first leg of their last-four tie at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening bidding to reach the final for only the second time following last year’s runners-up finish.

Guardiola is well aware City’s history hardly compares to that of the Spanish giants. However, he is confident the current Premier League leaders can be their match on the field.

“If we have to compete with history we don’t have any chance – they are better,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference.

“They’ve been in it many times, this competition. Before the last decade we were not, we were never here.

“The history is there, we cannot change it, but tomorrow we play 11 v 11, one ball is on the pitch and the players will decide if the decision-making is good or not.

“We are playing against players who have been in this position many, many times and beyond, reaching finals and winning.

“That’s why they have these kind of things and maybe still we don’t have it, but there are other issues and maybe we will have that and they don’t.

“In the end it’s the players’ quality, and how strong they are mentally, that will make the difference.”

England duo could miss massive clash

The main concerns for City heading into the game relate to their defence. Right-back Kyle Walker and centre-back John Stones remain doubtful after recent injuries and the other first-choice full-back, Joao Cancelo, is suspended.

Walker has missed the last three games with an ankle problem and Stones picked up a knock in last Wednesday’s Premier League win over Brighton.

Much now depends on how they fare in and react to training on Monday but there is a strong possibility someone may need to play in an unfamiliar position.

This echoes the quarter-final of two years ago against the same opponents, when Fernandinho played as a makeshift centre-back.

On that occasion the Brazilian stood up to the challenge as City pulled off a famous victory…


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