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"The Biggest F*** Up Of My Life As A Coach," Why Real Madrid Is A Personal Conquest For Guardiola

Dylan O'Connell
By Dylan O'Connell
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"I got it wrong, man. I got it totally wrong. It's a monumental f*** up. A total mess. The biggest f*** up of my life as a coach."

Guardiola’s words come in the immediate aftermath of his Bayern Munich team getting mauled 4-0 by Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid at home in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final bout in 2014.

They were supposed to overturn a one goal deficit but instead they relinquished their European crown with one of the most specular tactical failings of a manager that  was brought to Germany to build a dynasty.

He had to wait eight years for a chance to avenge that, or so he thought. Manchester City won the first leg of the semi-finals 4-3 and went 1-0 up at the Santiago Bernabéu  through Riyad Mahrez. Everything was going according to plan until Real Madrid scored twice in injury time, and City's lead disintegrated.

Groundhog Day

A Karim Benzema penalty sent Los Blancos through to the Champions League final, and it was Groundhog Day for Guardiola once again against Ancelotti.

On both occasions the Catalan has failed when facing ‘Don Carlo’ and now he hopes third time is the charm when his Manchester City team look to build on a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu in the return leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Etihad.


This is being billed as a revenge mission for the Sky Blues, but for Guardiola it is a far more personal mission.

Guardiola's Bayern Munich team were the reigning European champions when they travelled to Madrid in 2014 and there were dreams of a double treble, something that had never been done in European football history. 

They took that form to Madrid and played the same game they did all season. The Bavarians had 64% possession and attempted 840 passes on the night, and had 11 shots on target. Munich were giving an exhibition and Ancelotti had no interest in their showcase.


All the statistics counted for nothing at full-time as Benzema scored the only goal of the game and Madrid had the aggregate lead.

Nightmare in Munich


To overturn this Guardiola decided to play with a 3-4-3 formation in the return leg at the Allianz Arena. He wanted three defenders, two full-backs pushing up into midfield, and Mario Gotze as one of the two strikers. It was supposed to be a variation of 3-5-2 and he believed this would unlock Ancelotti and his team.


He is quoted as telling coach Domenec Torrent: “Dome, don't let me change my mind. This is the only way to go."

Guardiola scratched that plan the following day and choose to play a 4-2-3-1, the same system that they used to win that season’s Bundesliga.

It didn’t stop there, the manager became infatuated with the idea of a European statement and told the players to play in a 4-2-4 formation.


Guardiola previously deployed that in the DFL-Supercup, his first game with Bayern, and watched his team get beaten 4-2 by Borussia Dortmund.

That led to an impassioned Guardiola telling his players before the game: “Lads, this is not about going out and having a good time. You are going out there to do some damage. Go for the jugular. You are German, so be German and attack."

Bayern did attack, they just conceded four goals and three of those came from set pieces.


This led to the famous admission from Guardiola that he got it wrong and f***ed up.

There was no retribution for the manager last season, with the comeback at the Santiago Bernabéu going down as one of the most famous results in the history of Real Madrid.


It also goes into a separate list of his own continental misadventures, as it is now 12 years since Guardiola got to say he was a European champion.

This creates a sense of pressure in its own right, especially with City’s obsession with winning the tournament.

All of this is pale in comparison to the personal mission that will likely consume Guardiola tonight at the Ethiad Stadium in Manchester.

SEE ALSO: Guardiola: 'I'm Not Overthinking It, Don't Worry Guys.'



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