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We play with 12 – Pep Guardiola jokes he will overthink tactics against Atletico

Pep Guardiola has joked he will overthink his tactics against Atletico Madrid (Nigel French/PA)
Pep Guardiola has joked he will overthink his tactics against Atletico Madrid (Nigel French/PA)

Pep Guardiola has joked he will field 12 players against Atletico Madrid in a swipe at critics who claim he overthinks crucial Champions League ties.

The Manchester City boss teased that he will definitely outdo himself on the tactics front as the Premier League leaders host the Spanish champions in a quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.

Guardiola has faced criticism after City’s exits from the competition in recent years, including after last year’s final, after making some unexpected selections or changes to his system.

Pre-empting the flak that could come his way should City come up short again, Guardiola addressed the issue as he held his pre-match press conference on Monday.

Yet in doing so in a way that was part-serious as well as light-hearted, Guardiola added a level of intrigue with a sarcastic answer that left people guessing at what his tactics might actually be.

“In the Champions League I always overthink,” said the Spaniard at the start of a week that also includes a crunch Premier League clash against Liverpool.

“I always create new tactics and ideas, and tomorrow you will see a new one.

“I overthink a lot, that’s why I have very good results in the Champions League. I love it. It would be boring if I always played the same way.

“If people think I will play the same against Atletico and Liverpool, I don’t think like that because the movements from Liverpool are completely different than Atletico – especially because the players are all different.

City lost to Chelsea in last year's final after Guardiola opted to play without a holding midfielder
City lost to Chelsea in last year’s final after Pep Guardiola opted to play without a holding midfielder (Adam Davy/PA)

“Every player has a mother and father, and the mother and father give different personalities to the players.

“That’s why I love to overthink and create stupid tactics, and when we don’t win I am punished. Tonight I will take inspiration and I’m going to do incredible tactics tomorrow. We play with 12 tomorrow!”

The Atletico tie has been billed as a clash of styles between Guardiola’s fluid approach and the more rugged tactics of his opposite number Diego Simeone.

Atletico were at their dogged best as they overcame Manchester United in the previous round but Guardiola insists he has full respect for the way Simeone operates.

He said: “I’m not going to talk one second about these stupid debates. If we win we’ll be right and if they win they will be right.

Diego Simeone's Atletico saw off Manchester United
Diego Simeone’s Atletico saw off Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I think after watching Atletico, there is a misconception about the way he plays. It’s more offensive than people could believe.

“He doesn’t want to take risks in the build-up, but after they have quality and play really well in the final third.

“They know how they have to play in (certain) moments. It depends on where the ball is, the moment of the game – winning or losing, last minutes or early minutes, beginning of the second half. In these moments they are really good.”

Despite that, City midfielder Bernardo Silva did concede the game may not be an open encounter.

The Portugal international said: “The very honest answer is we don’t know what to expect.

“We don’t know if they’re going to try to press high or go low and wait for us. We know that whenever they try to press us they will be very aggressive, they won’t give us much space and it is going to be very tight.

“It definitely won’t be an open game because that isn’t Atletico’s quality. It will be the little details that will be decisive and important in these kind of games.”

Silva accepts Atletico may employ spoiling tactics but is not overly concerned.

He said: “It’s something that we cannot control. The best we can do is do our game, try and be on a very good level and beat them on the pitch.

“The rest is up to the referees, who are very good in this competition. I’m sure they will deal with it properly.”