Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Image credit: Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City to ignore the weight of history as they face Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League.Premier League leaders City host La Liga leaders Real at the Etihad in the first leg of their blockbuster tie on Tuesday.City have never won the competition, losing to Chelsea in their first final last year, while Real are 13-time champions.

“The history is there – we cannot change it but it’s 11 v 11,” said Guardiola. “The players will decide this. We are playing a team who have been here many times, that’s why they have this history and we don’t.”We can’t imagine what is going to happen but it’s 11 v 11 so it is about how the players move, how strong they are mentally, that will make the difference. Carlo [Ancelotti, Real Madrid head coach] and myself won’t win it. The players will.“If we have to compete with history we don’t have any chance, they are better, it speaks for itself. But we have the desire to play against them and take on this incredible test and we want to improve.

“We are going to suffer together and then, when we attack, do it as well as possible. This would be the same against Bayern Munich or Barca. They’ve been in it many times. Before the last decade we were never here. Reaching the final [last year] is a good lesson for us and for the future it will be good.”Guardiola has also told his team to enjoy the occasion as they look to set up a final against either Liverpool or Villarreal.“We have to be so precise against them. I said to the players: ‘Enjoy it, prepare for the game. It could be once in a lifetime [experience], nobody knows.’ There is no sense to not enjoy it, we want to be ourselves.

“We will try to be ourselves, compete well. We need to play two exceptional games to reach the final.”Defenders John Stones, Nathan Ake and Kyle Walker are both doubts for the first leg because of injuries. Joao Cancelo is also suspended.City are in the semi-finals for the third time while Real have made this stage of the competition in 10 of the last 12 years.”It’s an honour to be here in the semi-finals against Real Madrid,” added Guardiola. “They’ve been here many times, we have in recent years.”Real beat City in the semi-finals 1-0 on aggregate in 2016 but the last time they met in the knockout stages it was City who came out on top in the last 16 in 2020.

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