They say the best champions are the ones who come out of the canvas, and Pep Guardiola has no doubt taken a punch this week.
It means Sunday’s game against Newcastle, who look like an absolute home banker, has suddenly become arguably the toughest test of his managerial life.
It doesn’t matter if Manchester City are chasing a fourth title in five years, or the fact that they are one of the two best teams in the world.
None of that matters after he left the Champions League, and Guardiola has a great job of lifting the whole club.
I mean the whole club too. Not just the players, but their staff, the tea ladies, the kitman, everyone.
He also has to get up, and like no one else to help him.
Forget what Liverpool are doing, the big problem Pep and City have is how they will be affected by the loss to Real Madrid over the next four games.
When you go out like they did, it’s hard to recover.
But Pep has to get them back on track right away, or the league could also escape now.
That return trip from Spain will have been horrible.
His head must be everywhere.
You’re thinking, “What could I have done differently, what have I done wrong?”
The irony is that for 90 minutes, City played almost the perfect game.
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It’s amazing that Real didn’t make a single shot on goal at home.
If Thibaut Courtois’s heels had been half an inch shorter, Jack Grealish would have scored a second, and City would have been looking forward to a final against Liverpool.
So small are the margins. It doesn’t matter that Carlo Ancelotti always said that Real could come back.
If you are two times injured, you know you’re done. Like Pep, for all that fell on his face when they raised the board showing six more minutes, he will have believed that City was over.
When you get up from there, it’s the worst feeling you’ve ever had, beyond belief, and you’ll have to earn the corn to recover from it.
You’ve gone from hitting your opponent on the nose to falling down for a count of eight and feeling as boring as hell when you get up again.
I KNOW THEY FEEL
I know that feeling, believe me I know it. It wasn’t a Champions League semi-final, but the horrible, nauseating and upset stomach is the same.
When I was coaching Southampton and we were at the bottom of the table, we were two against Middlesbrough with a couple of minutes left.
I was going to make a substitute but I decided to wait a second because they had a corner.
Our center-back has headed into our net, they’ve got another one from the start and we’ve drawn 2-2. It was the same when we played Everton.
After 90 minutes, following yet another great corner, Peter Crouch knocked the ball to the limit of ‘s reach, who just couldn’t put it in the net.
The time it took us to recover from these two results cost us a lot, because we ended up going down.
Games like this never leave you completely.
I saw Andrea Pirlo in Turin this week and he told me that he still doesn’t know how AC Milan lost that 2005 final to Liverpool after winning 3-0 at the break.
It was 17 years ago, but he is still being eaten and Pep has had just over three days to lift his players before playing for Newcastle.
City has been sucked in by the wind and somehow Guardiola has to get it back, even though he feels absolutely shattered.
All I can say is that if anyone can do it, he is the man. The people on the phones who say they should go because City lost are idiots.
I heard someone say they had to get a coach who could win the competition, they were forgetting what Pep had done before, and that’s laughable.
Sure, it was a terrible way to lose, but honestly, do you think there’s anyone better than Pep?
I can’t see anyone, that’s for sure. Right now Guardiola will be low, low, low – I can’t imagine he has felt worse in his career.
If anyone can still get these players off the field, it’s Pep. But right now, not even he can tell you for sure that he will handle it.