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Pep Guardiola may unintentionally wreck Liverpool’s Champions League dream tonight

Pep Guardiola may unintentionally wreck Liverpool’s Champions League dream tonight

Manchester City’s season is done, meaning both players and fans will be watching the Champions League final on Saturday night rather than taking part in it.

If it hadn’t been for a fantastic Real Madrid comeback three weeks ago, City would be ready to play in the championship game for the second year in a row. But football is a harsh mistress, and it just wasn’t meant to be this year.

However, just because the Blues aren’t playing in Paris doesn’t mean Pep Guardiola’s influence won’t reach the Stade de France on Saturday night. If Liverpool loses to Real Madrid, Guardiola may be credited with playing a crucial role.

David Alaba, who had been rushed back from injury, played only 45 minutes of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium. City triumphed 4-3 that night, but they could have easily ended the deadlock in the first half.

For nearly 25 minutes, Los Blancos were unable to cope with City’s continuous pushing, bowing under pressure and struggling to construct their own attacks through calm play at the back. That was surprising given Alaba’s presence as an exceptional ball-playing defender, but he was clearly out of shape.

He will most likely start in central defence for Carlos Ancelotti’s side against Liverpool, who are undoubtedly the best pressing team in Europe.

Real Madrid will need Alaba to be at his best to survive Liverpool’s press and launch their own assaults if they are to win the European Cup for the 14th time.

Guardiola, who coached Alaba for three seasons at Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016, is responsible for Alaba’s strength in that area.

Alaba first experienced playing in the centre of defence rather than at left back under Pep at the Allianz Arena, but a new position was not the only thing the Austrian international learned from his coach.

“I experienced football differently under him [Pep], he showed me a side of football I hadn’t really seen before,” Alaba told The Athletic. “Football as a game of space, as a game of networks and processes. Playing with the ball, without the ball.

“Little things that make a big difference: the way you dribble, the way to pass, positional play, closing down spaces. When the ball’s up front and to the right, where’s the best position for you at the back on the left? These types of things. I saw so many new things during those years with him, even though I’d seen a few things before already.”

Guardiola was certain at the moment about how essential his defence was in beginning attacks, despite playing on the opposite end of the field.

“He can play anywhere. He’s quick, is good in the build-up and is always 100 per cent focused. Without doubt, he can be one of the best centre-backs in the world,” Guardiola said.

Guardiola was correct, as he so frequently is. Alaba is without a doubt one of the best centre defenders in the world, and if Real Madrid are to withstand Liverpool’s scorching onslaught and persistent press, he will have to play a significant role.

If Liverpool’s treble aspirations are dashed on Saturday night, City supporters may owe Guardiola a bottle of something pleasant.


Pep Guardiola may unintentionally wreck Liverpool’s Champions League dream tonight

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