Pep Guardiola hails Real Madrid as ‘kings’ of Europe ahead of Champions League clash

Pep Guardiola has hailed Real Madrid as the “kings” of the Champions League ahead of Manchester City’s clash with the 13-time European champions.

City travel to the Bernabeu for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday knowing they are yet to beat Real in four attempts in European competition.

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Guardiola has plenty of experience of facing Real from his time as a player and manager at their bitter rivals Barcelona, and he knows the size of the task his City side face.

“I played many times against them as a player and a manager and I always had an incredible admiration for the history of this club,” said Guardiola.

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“I know how difficult it is against the quality of their players. I don’t know how many finals they have played in or how many times they have lifted (the trophy).

“For us, maybe Claudio (Bravo, with Barcelona) has won the Champions League but otherwise we don’t have any players who have won this competition.

“But we have the desire to be ourselves. We can win, we can lose but we must try to be ourselves in these 180 minutes we have to face Real Madrid.

“For us there is an excitement. We try to do our best, knowing we play against the king of this competition.”

If City fail to find a way past Real, it currently looks set to be their final taste of European football until the 2022/23 season at the earliest – and possibly their last with Guardiola at the helm.

UEFA have banned them from their competitions for the next two seasons due to “serious breaches” of their Financial Fair Play regulations.

City say they will appeal the punishment and Guardiola insists he will not walk away – but his contract at the Etihad expires at the end of next season.

He said: “This is the real, real test. Maybe one day we dream to the win the Champions League but to do that we have to face these teams sooner or later.

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