Joao Cancelo has called on Manchester City to “embrace pressure” ahead of their Champions League last-16 tie against Sporting CP.
Having reached the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history last season, Cancelo and his team-mates were left with the bitter taste of defeat after losing 1-0 to Chelsea at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto.
Ahead of City’s return to Portugal this week to face Sporting CP, Cancelo has called for them to go one better this season. The first leg will be held at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon on Tuesday evening, with City firm favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
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“We’re a very strong team,” Cancelo said in City’s pre-match press conference. “The players we have know how to deal with the pressure of getting to the Champions League final, but we are up against the best teams in Europe. We need to embrace pressure.
“This club deserves to win the Champions League. It’s what this club works towards. And it’s what we are trying to do this season.”
City are unbeaten in their last 12 matches in all competitions, a run stretching back to their 2-1 loss to RB Leipzig in the Champions League group stage in December.
Despite that result they finished top of Group A, one point ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, though they did lose Kyle Walker to a three-match suspension owing to his needless red card for booting Andre Silva.
Asked about City’s recent form, Cancelo said: “The team are going through a good phase. We don’t concede many and we score a lot.
“That reflects our daily work. Now we concentrate on the Champions League against Sporting, that’s the game we want to win.”
Pep Guardiola echoed Cancelo’s assessment, stressing the sense of togetherness in the City dressing room. “The harmony right now is exceptional,” he said. “Thanks to the captains and many reasons. It is exceptional.
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“We know each other well. It’s been six seasons [since I arrived], we know each other perfectly. We accept the good things, the bad things, to fight and be part of that.”
Guardiola also called on his players to concentrate on maintaining their standards when they face Sporting. “We had an incredible run [in the Champions League] but, especially, we have behaved well,” he said.
“In Leipzig we weren’t ready mentally after already qualifying, the rest was good.
“I say every day, compete for ourselves. Every three days, we’ve done that for the last years and will do that again tomorrow.”
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