Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has warned that a 3-3 draw against Celtic must teach his players that Champions League opponents can “punish” them like “a machine”, as he predicted that the group stage may go to the last game.
Guardiola seemed hugely taken with the spirit and atmosphere of the club he called “Glasgow the Celtic”, whom he said had a history in Europe which City still lacked and had made winning difficult for “most prestigious teams in Europe.”
But he said that the game, in which City trailed after two minutes and went behind twice more, demonstrated the side must start games better and cut out errors.
“Maybe it is a good lesson for the future [about] how important it is to start well,” Guardiola said. “In Europe you can’t concede because they are a machine; they are there to punish you.”
The dropped points leave City two adrift of Barcelona, who came from behind to win at Borussia Monchengladbach and now have the Catalans to play twice. “When the fourth team in the pot was Celtic of Glasgow we knew how it would be. This group is [not] going to be [decided] until the last game with Celtic of Glasgow at home,” he said.
“Sometimes it happens in a season that you [go] behind. It’s not easy to recover one goal so imagine two, imagine three… It’s a shock when concede a goal in first two minutes. But this club was 25/26 years old without playing in Europe, from 1977 to 2011. That will be a good lesson. Europe is so special, the teams are so strong and Celtic is an amazing environment, we knew that but good lesson for future.”
Asked if the bouncing Celtic Park atmosphere was an example of what he wanted for the Etihad, where he has asked fans to forget their antipathy towards UEFA, Guardiola said: “Each club has its personality so what I want at Manchester City has to be what they are. Every club has their own history and personality and the way they handle the situation. I’m very pleased about what we have. Celtic has a huge history in Europe and we’re here to build up. Manchester City played in Europe a long time ago and then [Roberto] Mancini and Manuel [Pellegrini] built up. [In the] next years we have to try to build in that way.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said that the extraordinary atmosphere had delivered noise the kind of which he had not experienced in his football career.
“It’s a noise I’ve never heard before,” he said. “When you come here you realise how many players around the world talk about the atmosphere here. They really helped us to produce the performance we did.”
But it was the strategic capacity of his side to press City – in the process bringing to an end their run of ten consecutive wins under Guardiola – which he said had been the key.
“For us it was about tactically setting up and pressing,” Rodgers said. “It has to be an educated pressure because if not they will run through you. One of our goals to go over top of the press. There were many examples of counter pressing. That’s example of working collectively very hard together.
“Tactically if you not organised against this team, like we’ve seen in the Premier League they can really hurt you but that was a big, big game from us. We’re happy with point. It’s a big step forward for us.”
Rodgers said of Dembele: “We’re very lucky to have him. He was coveted by lot of teams but his agent is a clever guy. Does he go to so called better league as such and maybe not play as much? Or does he come here and develop for two or three years? He really bullied their back four but more than that [showed] a wonderful touch, power, pace agility.
“We put down a marker. Manchester City have travelled round the Premier League and absolutely destroyed teams, and that’s why this was going to be a very difficult game for us but tonight showed this is a huge club.
“It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. It just doesn’t have the platform of the Premier League. To come and virtually out-press Manchester City, [the players] deserve the respect for that.”