League Cup: Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urges team to get over first final nerves

Manchester: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola doesn't want nerves to undermine the Premier League leaders as they face Arsenal in Sunday's League Cup final seeking the first trophy of his reign.

City's hopes of an unprecedented quadruple ended on Monday in a bad-tempered FA Cup fifth-round 1-0 upset at third-tier Wigan Athletic.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 file photo, Manchester City coach Josep Guardiola looks on during their Champions League group F soccer match against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The English Football Association on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 has charged Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for promoting a political message by wearing a ribbon to support of imprisoned and ousted pro-independence Catalan politicians. Guardiola was born in Catalonia and is revered in the region because of his links with Barcelona's soccer team, as both a player and coach.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, file)

File photo of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. AP

Even with the Premier League title virtually in the bag and a place in the Champions League quarter-finals looking certain, Guardiola admitted there is some anxiety ahead of his and many of his players' first Cup final in English football.

The Catalan, who won 21 trophies during his spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, urged his side to relax and enjoy the occasion.

"In the first finals you are more nervous than the next one," Guardiola explained.

"I think it's a game we have to try to enjoy the most, it's a final. We are here to play these types of game, why to be nervous? Why to worry about win, win, win (sic).

"It's just a game. But no regrets after the game. It's too late for 'I didn't do what I should do' because it's a final."

City come up against an Arsenal side with a formidable recent record at the national stadium.

The Gunners have won on each of his last nine trips to Wembley when it's been a neutral venue in winning three FA Cups and three Community Shields in the past four seasons.

Yet, their most recent trip to Wembley ended in defeat at the hands of bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month.

Respect for Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger remains a divisive figure for Arsenal supporters some of whom are disillusioned with the club's inability to challenge for the Premier League and in Europe in the latter part of his 22-year stewardship. But Guardiola revealed his admiration for Wenger's longevity.

"He's special," Guardiola said. "If you are there for a long time it's because you are good. It's simple like that. Because you have passion and you are enjoying your job.

"When one manager is at a club for a long time you have success and do good things but in this game, he is my rival."

City are set to include Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus in their squad to face Arsenal after he returned to training following a knee injury sustained against Crystal Palace on 31 December.

His return in addition to Germany midfielder Leroy Sane's comeback from an ankle injury ahead of schedule has lifted City's squad, although Raheem Sterling is a major doubt.

"It is exciting to have both of them back," Guardiola added.

"I think they will be ready to play. They will be fit. Gabriel, it is mentality and he is strong. He is a guy who will be ready. Leroy's young and strong and he came back early."

However, Guardiola warned there will be no wild celebrations even if City lift the Cup as they face Arsenal again on league duty at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

"Normally there is no alcohol," he said. "But I think talking about the celebration before the game is stupid, it makes no sense. Before the celebration, we have to play a game."

Published Date: Feb 25, 2018 14:54 PM | Updated Date: Feb 25, 2018 14:55 PM

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