The Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola appears to be in his own world, head down, as he moves the objects around until they are all perfectly lined up. Then a question comes in and he emerges from his little exercise to discuss the game ahead.
Guardiola likes perfection, he strives for it on a daily basis, perhaps to the point of distraction.
But as his City team prepare, in Guardiola’s words, to “climb a mountain” as they seek to overturn a 3-0 deficit in Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second-leg against Liverpool, perfection is precisely what the home team need.
“To go through you have to make a perfect game, create chances, be clinical, concede few chances,” Guardiola said on Monday, when asked about City’s prospects of reaching only the club’s second-ever Champions League semifinal
“All the conditions have to be perfect. The result is tough, but we have 90 minutes and in football everything can happen. What we are going to do is try.”
Guardiola’s intensity is nothing new, and it is a large part of why he and his teams have been so successful.
From insisting on a certain length of grass at the club’s training ground, to changing the nets from black to white in the goals at the Etihad stadium in order to improve the visuals for his forwards, Guardiola does not let allow anything to contribute to imperfection.
But then a setback comes along, two in the space of a week when Liverpool’s win is added to United’s 3-2 derby victory, and question marks begin to emerge alongside the flaws in Guardiola’s pursuit of perfection.
In his news conference to preview the Liverpool tie, Guardiola was once again a bundle of uncontrollable energy, rocking back and forth on his chair, scratching his head and, while midfielder Fernandinho was addressing the media first, the Spaniard oddly turned 90 degrees to focus on the UEFA backdrop behind him.
Perhaps it could be attributed to the rough ride he was expecting. Guardiola is not accustomed to losing football games, let alone two in the space of four days, so the scrutiny he was about to face was a relatively unusual experience for him.
That, combined with the reminder of a Champions League record that has seen him fail to reach a final since 2011, would be an uncomfortable ordeal for most managers.
But Tuesday night offers Guardiola and City the chance to show that his pursuit of perfection does have a reachable final destination. On no fewer than 13 occasions this season, Guardiola’s team has achieved a result that would take them through — or into extra-time at the very least — against Liverpool on Tuesday.
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