Real Madrid vs Man City: Pep Guardiola’s well-known collapse in the Champions League is about luck


That Manchester City The players hardly spoke. After the first leg, however, you were “emotionally exhausted”. real Madridhow many sources there have that Scene in the dressing room at the Bernabeu was one of utter devastation.

The players and staff just couldn’t believe it.

The truth is that one has influenced the other, one is built on the other. Even before the explosions at the end of this game at the Bernabeu and another pep Guardiola Implosion, the City players knew they should have won the tie at home. It should have been 5-2 or even 6-2, and certainly out of sight.

That caused a stir before this second leg and gave Madrid even more confidence. All of this then overlays what happened in the final stages of this game. Jack Grealish missed two chances. Real Madrid started to find openings.

You go in and the floodgates open.

These are the most damning details of all. When that game started in the 90th minute, City had a two-goal lead and were pretty much in the Paris final. Just six minutes later they had conceded three goals and were out.

The appearances make it probably the worst of Guardiola’s eliminations, but arguably so does sheer numbers.

Consider the following. Of Guardiola’s 11 eliminations from the Champions Leagueback to the first 2009-10, a huge eight I’ve seen periods where there was a flood of goals against or amazing collapses.

  • 2009-10 International semi-finals 2 goals in 13 minutes
  • 2014 Bayern Munich semifinals 3 goals in 18th
  • 2015 Barcelona Semifinals 3 in 17
  • 2017 Monaco Round of 16 2 in 8
  • 2018 Liverpool quarter-finals 3 in 19
  • 2019 Tottenham Hotspur Quarterfinals 2 in 3
  • 2020 Lyon Quarterfinals 2 in 8th
  • 2022 Real Madrid Semifinals 3 in 6

There is clearly something here that goes beyond the basic “luck”, as even Carlo Ancelotti mentioned, or the basic madness of the game. That doesn’t just happen. It happens for a reason, and probably a few reasons. There’s psychology, obviously, but there’s also identity, and probably even tactics.

There is also a chance that they are all on top of each other and affect each other. Guardiola specifically referred to Barcelona’s 2011-12 defeat by Chelsea when asked about the nature of the eliminations and it’s hard not to feel that had the most profound effect on him. It didn’t have the same kind of breakdown as later bonds, but it set the conditions they would bring. Guardiola kept regretting how this game got “out of control”. He felt it was such a huge wasted opportunity and couldn’t believe how his team could be so dominant and still lose. Rather than simply accepting that this is knockout football and that it happens sometimes, his fixation ever since has been trying to ensure no tie can ever get out of hand again.

The problem, as always with such obsessions, is that they become self-fulfilling prophecies in the wrong way. They will be like Homeric literature, where the protagonist’s concerted attempts to avoid his fate only make it more concrete. Guardiola is such a clear example of that. Most notorious are the bizarre tactical decisions, which probably reached a nadir in last season’s final against Chelsea when they refused to field a defensive midfielder.

Even more relevant, however, is how the impact of all of this likely runs much deeper. It’s not just about individual decisions. It’s something systemic. With Guardiola so obsessed with control, his teams don’t know how to deal with situations where they lose that control.

However, there is more to this than the fear accumulated by so many similar eliminations.

There’s also the apparent contradiction of what kind of players Guardiola needs. As first argued by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Guardiola requires fairly conscientious players to carry out his orders to the letter. Those who resist are generally discarded or forced to relearn the game. The latter happens with Jack Grealish.

The problem is that these players become so dependent on the system that they don’t know how to react if the system goes down. A common criticism within the game – and even from those who know the town locker room – is that they lack “characters”.

Karim Benzema ended the tie in extra time with a penalty to put Los Blancos ahead


That might be a cliché, but it’s become one, and for good reason. City doesn’t really have the people to save, to get their way on these occasions. Kevin De Bruyne is among the few and he wasn’t at his best at the Bernabeu before being picked off. That was another strange decision.

There is then a potential problem with having unlimited wealth. It makes you so powerful and makes so many games so easy that when things go against you, you don’t know how to handle it.

It’s not enough to experience it a few times a season, let alone once a year in the Champions League. It only fuels the doubt if you face it.

All of this came together in those six minutes at the Bernabeu only for the team to collapse. Many might point to the sheer coincidence of a defender like Ruben Dias rushing into such a hasty challenge, but it also happens for a reason. It’s a particular kind of panic that stems from the intensity of the situation, which itself is only compounded by the fear of so many similar defeats, due in part to so many Guardiola decisions. And on and on… to possibly go on and on for much longer.

With Madrid it was the other way around. The memory of so many similar situations strengthened her. They were 2-0 down against Paris Saint-Germain with 30 minutes to go and Chelsea with 10 minutes to go. They just believed, as match-winner hero Rodrygo said after the game. “This is what happens when you wear this shirt.” They will now wear this jersey in Paris and a 17th Champions League final and hope for their 14th win.

Pep Guardiola watches at the Bernabeu

(Action pics via Reuters)

That’s history, and it’s all the more impressive because – despite Madrid’s apparent institutional power – it goes against the sport’s current economic realities. One of the reasons why Florentino Perez wants such a Super League is that his club can no longer match the financial strength of the Premier League.

It’s also good for football for that reason that we don’t have an all-English final, no matter how ‘ultimate’ a showdown it would have been.

That’s not what the European Cup should be about. It should be about diversity, about the clash of different football cultures. It should be international, not national. There’s also the added problem that the more England dominate big games, the more commercially attractive they become, eroding the status of everything else.

It becomes a sure-fire success. This is now something that has ended Madrid’s own self-sustaining character and history.

But it was one night. It was a season for that. It was just another well-known mistake for Guardiola. Real Madrid vs Man City: Pep Guardiola’s well-known collapse in the Champions League is about luck


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