Pep Guardiola conceded that he faces a challenge to convince his Manchester City players to believe they can reach the Uefa Champions League semi-finals, after saying everyone expects them to exit Europe.
City were beaten 3-0 at Anfield in the quarter-final first leg, making them outsiders to progress to the last four for only the second time in their history.
“Nobody believes we will go through,” Guardiola said. “We will convince ourselves tomorrow. I believe a lot in this team. They show me many good things in the season.”
City conceded three times in 19 minutes, and Guardiola, who felt Mohamed Salah’s opener for Liverpool was offside, argued his side acquitted themselves well apart from that.
“We arrive with a huge personality except for 10-15 minutes in the first half when we lost a bit of control,” he said. “They had two attacks and scored [the first] two goals. But for the rest of the game, we were so, so good. I don't have too many regrets or complaints.”
“When you play bad and the opponent is much better than you and it is 2-0, you have to accept it. But I do not have that feeling. Maybe when I review the game I will say it was a disaster, but I do not have that feeling.”
The Catalan, a double Champions League winner as Barcelona manager, said the key was that Liverpool were more clinical. “The [penalty] boxes make the difference and they were so good in those situations,” he added.
If City concede once at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, they will need to score five times, but while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp offered a reminder his side were beaten 5-0 in Manchester in September, Guardiola said: "A clean sheet is so important."
His side were breached three times, with Salah’s opener being followed by a searing shot from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a Sadio Mane header from the Egyptian’s cross.
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To compound a bad day, City’s team coach was attacked on the way into Anfield, with the front window and driver’s door smashed.
Liverpool apologised, but while Guardiola denied the incident impacted on his side's performance, he said: "We come here to play football. The bus is destroyed. I didn't expect as prestigious a club as Liverpool to do these things."
Klopp conceded he was taken aback by the scoreline, saying: “The result is not what we expected. We beat the best team in the world. The first half was brilliant. It was how football should look. They had no shot on target. I don’t know how we did that.”
The best news for City came in the form of two blows for Liverpool, with captain Jordan Henderson’s late booking ruled him out of the second leg and Salah going off injured.
It changed the dynamic of the game and may yet alter the tie. "Mo came to the sideline and said he felt something," Klopp said. "After the game I asked him and he said he felt fine." The 38-goal forward is set to be assessed on Thursday.