First off, Pep Guardiola is a genius.
I managed to take Chelsea down in Football Manager so I’d never try and criticise a coach who’s overseen two Champions League successes.
But every now and then he does make weird decisions in big Champions League games.
Captain Hindsight is a lovely thing and you can’t win if you don’t spin however the gamble doesn’t always pay off.
Barcelona (v Inter Milan, 2009/10)
Pep faced a familiar foe in Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side in the semi-final of the 2009/10 Champions League campaign.
Mourinho employed Thiago Motta and Esteban Cambiasso to sit in front of Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Walter Samuel and Maicon but rather than look to blow Inter away with pace Guardiola met fire with fire.
The Spaniard started Zlatan Ibrahimovic despite obvious friction between the two, however the Swede was helpless as Barcelona lost the first leg 3-1.
The only change he made during the game was bringing Eric Abidal on for Zlatan, allowing Gerard Pique to go up front.
That’s one way to ensure Zlatan includes you in his autobiography.
Motta’s red card after just 26 minutes opened the door for Barcelona in the second-leg.
However Barca couldn’t find the right ammunition to blow the doors off, with Zlatan replaced by Bojan after 63 minutes.
Thierry Henry was left on the bench as Barcelona floundered. By the time Pique found the back of the net six minutes from time it was too little too late.
Barcelona (v Chelsea, 2011/12)
Pique and Marc Bartra were left on the bench in favour of 5ft 8in Javier Mascherano, who was asked to handle the ominous aerial presence of Didier Drogba.
Drogba subsequently pulled off Mascherano to give Chelsea a lead heading into the second meeting in the Nou Camp.
Guardiola tweaked his tactics and went with a back three which lasted all of 26 minutes before Pique was forced off.
Pep also started Isaac Cuenca, a player who hadn’t scored since the start of December (it was late April by this point), instead of plumping for Pedro or the creativity of Thiago.
Chelsea survived 22 shots on goal to pull off a 2-2 draw, which was enough to secure progression into the final.
Bayern Munich (v Real Madrid, 2013/14)
Pep’s Bayern side faced widespread criticism for only managing four shots from 70% possession in the first-leg Champions League clash against Madrid, with the Spaniards sneaking a 1-0 advantage through Karim Benzema.
Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze started on the bench as Pep went for full control mode.
He let off slightly in the return leg as Bayern only managed 69% possession. The only problem was that Bayern got stuffed 4-0 at home after conceding two Sergio Ramos set-piece goals in four minutes.
For all the pretty passing Bayern lacked a Grant Holt or Glenn Murray up top (said no one, ever).
Bayern Munich (v Barcelona, 2014/15)
How do you go about stopping MSN? By getting Mehdi Benatia, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha to man-mark them.
Well, not quite.
Guardiola was forced to hastily backtrack on his plan after watching Barcelona’s front three run wild.
Bayern still managed to conceded three goals in the last 13 minutes to end any chances of qualifying for the final of the 2015 Champions League final.
Man City (v Monaco, 2016/17)
Leading 5-3 against an electric Monaco side, Pep decided to go ultra-attacking rather than try and hold the advantage.
No passing without purpose here.
Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero played in front of Fernandinho.
City’s back four- three of whom were full-backs- were far too exposed, allowing Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko to score and dump them out of Europe at the round of 16 stage.
Man City (v Liverpool, 2017/18)
You’re facing the best right-sided player in England. You need to make sure your left side is more protected than Donald Trump’s computer.
Pep’s solution to stopping Mohamed Salah was to play centre-back Aymeric Laporte out on the left.
It didn’t work as Salah scored and assisted during a 3-0 win.
The rest is history, unless you’re reading this before kick-off in which case you’ll have to take our word for it.
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