After two Champions League titles in three years with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola wouldn’t have expected to still be waiting for another European title nearly a decade later.
The Catalan coach took Bayern Munich to three semi-finals, while he hasn’t even been able to make it that far with Manchester City.
Part of his struggles might be put down to failing to see off ties in the first leg: in his last six first-leg ties in Europe’s top competition, only one could be described as done and dusted before the return fixture, as we’ll see below…
Pep’s last crack at the Champions League with Bayern came in 2015-16, off the back of knockout victories over Juventus (after extra-time) and Benfica (3-2 on aggregate), but Atleti handed the Bundesliga side only their second defeat of 2016 in any competition (Mainz, at the Allianz, had been the other).
A goal from Saul made the difference in the first leg – he’s got a knack for finding the net in big games – and Bayern couldn’t find a way past Jan Oblak despite having 20 attempts on goal.
Their failure to net at the Calderon would prove crucial in the return leg: Xabi Alonso brought Bayern level on aggregate but Antoine Griezmann’s away goal left them needing two – ultimately, they fell short.
City approached their first knockout game under Guardiola in fine form, coming off a run of three straight league wins as they rebounded from a humbling 4-0 loss at Everton.
They had no trouble scoring goals against Monaco, either, but things were far from tight at the other end. Two goals from Falcao and one from Kylian Mbappe put the visitors 3-2 up at the Etihad, though a late flurry convinced some City fans they’d done enough.
Not so. Tiemoue Bakayoko scored the clincher in Monaco’s 3-1 home victory, sending Guardiola’s side out on away goals.
The one outlier: a comfortable first-leg win, away from home to boot, which made City’s progress a formality.
City started their 2017-18 group stage campaign with a 4-0 win at Feyenoord, helped by a three-goal burst in the opening half hour, and they did the same in Switzerland in the last 16 after topping their group.
Guardiola was able to rest a host of players for the second leg, handing Phil Foden his second ever Champions League start and Yaya Toure his last in the competition. His team took an early lead, but eventually fell to an inconsequential 2-1 defeat.
As City marched towards the domestic title, Liverpool were the last team they wanted to face in Europe.
Sure enough, Jurgen Klopp’s team – rallying at home and scoring for fun in the Champions League, blew away Guardiola’s men with first-half goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane.
People weren’t ruling City out of contention ahead of the return leg – after all, they’d beaten Liverpool 5-0 in the league back in the previous September – and Gabriel Jesus’ early goal set some nerves racing. However, Jurgen Klopp’s team kept it at 1-0 at half-time and scored two goals of their own after the break to make it through.
City made much harder work of their game at Schalke than they should, giving away two first-half penalties and losing Nicolas Otamendi to a red card at 2-1 down.
However, just when some wondered if Schalke might be able to give themselves more of a lead to protect at the Etihad, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling beat goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann in the final five minutes.
City weren’t going to risk making the same mistakes at home: they were three goals to the good by half time, eventually scoring seven to make it 10-2 on aggregate.
Man City have turned it around!!!
Raheem Sterling makes it 3-2 in the dying minutes 🙌 pic.twitter.com/UyvqRZxQMz
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 20, 2019
If you want to stop Pep’s City in Europe, it seems you can do a lot worse than pit them against another English team.
Not that City didn’t have their chances in the first game as Spurs’ new stadium – Sergio Aguero saw a penalty saved by Hugo Lloris before the home side held firm and took the lead through Son Heung-min.
As you know, City and Tottenham played out a ridiculous return game at the Etihad: it was 3-2 after just 21 minutes, and Aguero’s second-half goal looked to have sealed things, but Fernando Llorente’s contentious effort – coupled with a disallowed Raheem Sterling effort – put the visitors through on away goals.