Pep Guardiola explained why Erling Haaland will not be the difference between Manchester City’s previous Champions League failures and a first title.
City have been repeatedly frustrated in the Champions League but are through to the quarter-finals for a sixth straight year after dominating RB Leipzig, led by Haaland.
The City number nine hit five on Tuesday in a 7-0 second-leg win in the last 16, securing an 8-1 aggregate victory.
Haaland broke a series of records in the process, including moving to 39 goals for the season – a new club record.
But these unprecedented goalscoring feats will not be enough to make City champions of Europe if they do not defend better than in previous seasons, Guardiola insisted.
Asked if Haaland’s involvement could be pivotal, the City manager told BT Sport: “I don’t think so. The reason why is we conceded a lot of goals that we gave to the opponent.
“We scored four goals against Real Madrid, we scored six goals against Monaco, we scored four goals against Tottenham, and all the time we were out, because we conceded the goals. We could absolutely avoid it.
7 – Manchester City equalled their biggest ever win in the UEFA Champions League, alongside a 7-0 victory versus FC Schalke 04 in March 2019 (7-0). Gluttony.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 14, 2023
“Right now, we defended really well. The goals we have scored all the time in all the seasons.
“But of course having someone like Erling, like Julian [Alvarez], like we had with Sergio [Aguero] before or Gabriel [Jesus], who has the instinct to score the goals… in this competition, in one moment, he can score. It’s important.”
Haaland scored five goals from eight shots, all of which hit the target, before being substituted with 27 minutes to play, denied the chance to become the first man to net a double hat-trick in the Champions League.
“It was five in 60 minutes, no more than that. If he played 90 minutes… I don’t know,” Guardiola said.
“He’s an incredible guy. He has the power, the mentality, he’s a serial winner.”