Pep Guardiola remains insistent that Atletico Madrid are different to what people believe – and it means he may have some tricks up his own sleeve for Manchester City.
Manchester City will welcome Atletico to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. They will be hoping to take the first step towards avoiding the fate of elimination that the Spaniards inflicted on their neighbours Manchester United in the last round.
Still in contention to retain their Premier League title, it is the Champions League that has been evading Manchester City during the Guardiola era. Going up against their respective champions from Spain will not be an easy next obstacle, no matter how good they are themselves.
Much has been made of the clash of styles between the possession-based City and the defensively rigid Atletico. Guardiola has been playing it down ever since the draw was made. Now, at his pre-match press conference on the eve of the first leg, he has reiterated there is more to their opponents than people think.
Guardiola said: “After watching Atletico there is a misconception, wrong, about the way he [Diego Simeone] plays. It’s more offensive than people believe.
“He doesn’t want to take a risk in the build up but they have quality in the final third. When the ball is in our halfway, how competitive they are, depends on the position and movement, they know exactly how to play.
“In the moments of the game, these situations they are really good.”
Pressed further, Guardiola described a debate about their contrasting styles as being “stupid”. Instead, he says whoever wins will be vindicated.
He added: “I’m not going to talk one second about this stupid debate. Everyone tries to win the game.
“If they win they are right, if we win we are right. It’s for the players, the difference will be there.”
Likewise, Guardiola does not believe there is anything extreme about Atletico’s perceived use of the dark arts on the pitch.
Indeed, he responded: “We have to do the same, defend our position. It’s part of the game.
“I’m not going to judge what they do. I’ll analyse what to do to get a…