Champions League: Guardiola faces up to Haaland challenge in last eight

  • City manager says Dortmund striker one of world’s best
  • Chelsea face Porto and Liverpool meet Real Madrid

Pep Guardiola has said Erling Haaland is one of the best players in the world but he refused to discuss his interest in the striker after Manchester City landed Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-final draw.

Haaland is one of the names on City’s radar this summer and the other Premier League clubs still in the competition will be relieved to have avoided the 20-year-old. Chelsea will face Porto and Liverpool will be out for revenge when they meet Real Madrid, who beat them in the 2018 final.

The draw threw up fascinating storylines. There will be a resumption of hostilities between Chelsea and Liverpool on the European stage if they win their respective ties, and City’s reward if they beat Dortmund will be a daunting semi-final against the holders, Bayern Munich, or Paris Saint-Germain, who met in last season’s final.

First, though, City need to deal with Haaland. The Norway international, also a target for Chelsea and Manchester United, has scored 37 goals for club and country this season and his exploits for Dortmund have caught Guardiola’s eye.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” City’s manager said. “He is one of the best in the world at his age. I saw a few games, seen highlights of him, and the numbers are impressive. I know the quality of him and I think everyone knows.”

Haaland’s father, Alf-Inge, played for City, who have never gone beyond the semi-finals of the tournament. Guardiola, though, refused to talk about signing the forward. “He’s a player for Dortmund,” he said. “I don’t like it when people talk about our players, you understand I cannot answer this question.”

Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund is one of the names on Manchester City’s radar this summer.
Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund is one of the names on Manchester City’s radar this summer. Photograph: Lars Baron/EPA

City, who have the first leg at home, also face a reunion with Jadon Sancho. The 20-year-old winger left City to join Dortmund in 2017, but Guardiola insisted that he did not regret losing the England international to the Bundesliga side.

“I said many times, not a regret, he decides,” Guardiola said. “He’s doing really well, congratulations, an exceptional player. We want him to stay but he decides to leave. I wish him all the best except when he plays against us. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”

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Liverpool, who have endured a difficult domestic campaign, will have plenty of motivation when they meet Madrid. There was controversy when Jürgen Klopp’s side lost to the Spanish champions three years ago. Mohamed Salah was injured following a strong challenge by Sergio Ramos.

Salah’s substitution changed the dynamic of the match and Madrid, inspired by Gareth Bale, clinched victory in the second half. Yet Liverpool, who won the Champions League in 2019, will not be overawed about facing Zinedine Zidane’s side, who have struggled in Europe in the past two seasons.

“It’s obviously a tough draw, but I am fine with it because if you look at all the other teams you think ‘Oh my god’ because they are all strong,” Klopp said. “I am really looking forward to the games. It’s only just over two years ago that we faced them and it was a tough night for us, so to get the chance to play them again is cool.”

Chelsea, who reached the last eight for the first time since 2014 after beating Atlético Madrid, are favourites against Porto. Yet Thomas Tuchel is not thinking about a repeat of Chelsea’s 2005 semi-final against Liverpool, warning that Porto upset Juventus in the last round.

“Many people will maybe now make us favourites against Porto,” Chelsea’s manager said. “That will not help us because you can ask in Turin their opinion about whether it helps you to be favourites.”

PSG, who knocked out Barcelona in the last 16, will have their work cut out against Bayern. “Difficult draw, but surprises exist,” PSG’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, said. “We knocked out Barcelona and now we focus on Bayern.”

The quarter-final ties are due to be played on 6-7 and 13-14 April, with the semi-finals later that month and in early May.


Jacob Steinberg

The GuardianTramp

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