Man City manager Pep Guardiola says winning the Club World Cup would 'close the circle'

English treble winners face Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan in Tuesday's semi-final in Jeddah

Powered by automated translation

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s debut participation in the Fifa Club World Cup is the chance to "close the circle" of trophies won. However, he sounded a note of caution regarding players’ welfare ahead of the competition's expansion in 2025.

The English and European champions will on Tuesday contest a first Club World Cup match, when they take on Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the semi-final in Jeddah.

The trophy remains one of the only titles Guardiola has not won with City, although he is attempting to clinch the crown for a record fourth time, having previously guided Barcelona and Bayern Munich to success.

Speaking on Monday at King Abdullah Sports City, where City meet Urawa the following day, Guardiola said: “It is a pleasure to be here, an honour, and it's Manchester City’s first time here. We don’t take it for granted; we take it as a privilege.

“We know how hard it is to win the Club World Cup and you have to have done something exceptional in the past. It’s difficult to win here and the players know this. That's why we want to play well tomorrow.”

Guardiola, a victor in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona, and 2013 with Bayern, continued: “It is my fourth time I have played this competition and the previous times the semi-final was really tough, really tricky every time.

“We want to win it. It is a trophy we do not have. We want to close the little circle that we win all the trophies we could. This is the last one.

“In the Premier League you always have another game. Here maybe it’s just once in a lifetime.”

City, who booked their spot in Saudi Arabia in May by winning a first Uefa Champions League, come into the tournament off the back of a difficult run domestically.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace – they let slip a 2-0 lead – means City have a solitary victory in their past six Premier League games. As such, they sit fourth, five points off leaders Arsenal after 17 rounds.

On Tuesday, Guardiola is expected to be without star striker Erling Haaland and principal creator Kevin de Bruyne, who have both been sidelined recently through injury - although the Belgian did train with the team on Monday.

Asked about the Club World Cup perhaps providing much-needed respite given the team’s apparent struggles, Guardiola said: "It’s a different competition, so whatever happens here is different to the UK… hopefully we can maintain our passion and desire to win."

On Urawa and the chance to advance to Friday’s showpiece, Guardiola said: “We have to play to deserve to be in the final. I’ve been here before; it’s always complicated. Football in Japan has grown up … all respect to Urawa and, of course, we want to be in the final next Friday.”

The tournament in Saudi Arabia, which features the champions of the six confederations together with the host nation’s most recent top-flight winners, marks the final time it will be played in its current guise.

From 2025, the Club World Cup will comprise 32 teams, raising concerns about the workload placed on footballers. City are already confirmed for the expanded competition’s inaugural showing, in the United States, in two years’ time.

"Fifa took a decision, but all the clubs supported it," Guardiola said. "I’m part of the club, so what would I say? They decide to be there. A lot of games, yes, but what can I do?

Man City v Palace ratings

“I prefer to think, ‘OK, we won last season, we’re invited’. At the end of the season, we’ll be completely exhausted, I guess, which normally happens. We’ll fly to the States, hopefully with our families, and play the World Cup there as best as possible.

"They decided to create a new competition. OK. Just to adjust, adapt and rely on the people who decide this."

Yet Guardiola added: “I’m not against the new competitions, I’m against the lack of time to recover from year to year. This is what I’m complaining about all the time. For it doesn’t matter to play every three days, six days, seven days, it’s OK.

"But it’s really, really tough to finish the season, and in three weeks to restart again. Go to Asia or the States for all the clubs to be financially stable. That is really, really tough, for myself, but especially for the players. And this means things should change – this is my point.

"But how do you change when you finish the season and go 15, 20 days to the States to play another competition? This is the problem.”

Updated: December 18, 2023, 5:47 PM