A different way of passing the time is emerging inside the Manchester City dressing room as Pep Guardiola‘s players hunt for fresh ways to relax.
Benjamin Mendy has introduced the South American dice game, Perudo, to his team-mates and four new boxes arrived at the City Football Academy this week.
A hit with France‘s World Cup winners last summer, Perudo encourages high-risk strategies and celebrates the art of bluffing. Both are traits their manager revels in deploying — particularly in the Champions League.
Kidology was very much at play before a tantalising double-header with Tottenham, as he sarcastically agreed that not lifting the Champions League would be considered a failure.
What he could not dispute is that City need to roll the dice this week. Guardiola described the two home games against Spurs as season-defining. And they have to win them both — on Wednesday night in the Champions League second leg and on Saturday in the league — if a hugely promising campaign is not destined to fall flat.
Two wins and the prospect of an historic Quadruple would be solidified by Saturday afternoon. Equally, City’s season might go up in smoke with draws or defeats. The FA Cup and League Cup double would be scant consolation.
‘If we don’t win these games we’ll be out of two competitions,’ said Guardiola. ‘They are absolute finals for us. I’ve had that feeling from weeks ago. But I’ve said many times that the Premier League is the most important.’
The message coming from his players is that the Quadruple is firmly in their thoughts. John Stones talked up the squad’s chances, saying: ‘We’re still on for the Quadruple and that’s the dream we want to achieve. We’re fighting for it every day. We’ve got to trust it brings the best out of us.
‘We’ve got to enjoy the pressure of fighting for the titles and these big games. You get the best out of yourselves when you are under that scrutiny and you find who you are as a player and the players around you. It is a privileged position to be in and we have got to take every opportunity.’
For that to come to fruition, Guardiola will need to win his first Champions League since 2011. The Catalan’s record in the competition is derided by his detractors, particularly a failure to reach a final during his three years in charge of Bayern Munich.
There have been big moments when Guardiola has been found wanting in this competition, but also big moments where his genius has been plain. He has won it twice, after all, in 2009 and 2011. One more would put him on a par with Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.
Some around City believe that starting with two holding midfielders and resting Kevin De Bruyne for last week’s 1-0 defeat at Spurs might also prove to be a masterstroke come the full-time whistle on Wednesday. De Bruyne certainly looked fresh and carried City during the latter stages of Sunday’s victory at Crystal Palace.
‘When my teams don’t win the Champions League, they “fail” all the time,’ Guardiola said, eyebrows raised. ‘I have to win. The chairman asked me to win three times in a row. We try to do our best and tomorrow we will see.
‘I know people say I came here to win the Champions League. I didn’t come here to win the Champions League, honestly. Of course I want it. I know at Bayern Munich, a big club, after three seasons winning absolutely everything (domestically), then the Champions League was a big failure.-dailymail.