MX23RW : Monday, March 25 09:58:35

All-English Champions League clash is too close to call, says Pep Guardiola

All-English Champions League clash is too close to call, says Pep Guardiola
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Last season's finalists Liverpool face Porto while Manchester United take on Barcelona.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes his side's Champions League quarter-final with Tottenham is a "50/50" tie.

City have won their last three games against Mauricio Pochettino's side but Guardiola is taking nothing for granted after Friday's draw, which also saw last year's beaten finalists Liverpool receive arguably the most favourable tie after being paired with Porto.

Manchester United face a daunting tie against Barcelona, although caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will enjoy another trip to the Nou Camp, where he scored the winner in United's Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in 1999.

United were drawn as the away team for the first leg but the tie had to be reversed, with UEFA stipulating in advance following advice from local authorities that they and City could not play at home on successive nights.

United and Liverpool will meet in the semi-finals if they reach the last four, with Tottenham or Manchester City facing the winner of the quarter-final between Ajax and Juventus.

The ties between Liverpool and Porto and Tottenham and Manchester City will be held on April 9 and 17, with the other quarter-finals staged on April 10 and 16.

City won both of their Premier League ties with Tottenham last season and also beat Pochettino's side at Wembley earlier in this campaign. The two teams meet again in the league just days after the second leg.

"We know each other quite well, we have played (Spurs) in the last years many times so we have a lot of respect for them," Guardiola said.

"(They are a) top side, so it's 50/50.

"Tottenham, huge respect because I know them quite well. They can use different systems, how good they are up front with Son (Heung-min), (Harry) Kane, Dele Alli, with the quality from (Christian) Eriksen. It's a tough side but any other team in the Champions League would be the same.

"Any team has its strong points and weak points, the same as us. We must try to discover that.

"What I want is to come back from the international break with people fit, ready to play the last month and a half with everybody making his own contribution because if we are able to get to the semi-finals (of the FA Cup), April is incredible with the fixtures we have, a lot of games, and everybody will be necessary to play."

Tottenham striker Harry Kane said he was looking forward to "two great games".

"Manchester City are obviously one of the best teams in Europe at the moment so it will be a great test for us," he said on the club website.

"In the quarter-finals of the Champions League you have to expect to play tough teams though, so we will be ready for it."

Asked whether he was confident Spurs could overcome City over two legs, he added: "Yes. We have to believe in our ability.

"It will be tough but it's a chance to get to a Champions League semi-final so we will give it everything."

Solskjaer felt he was fated to be paired with Barcelona, given his history with the city and the stadium.

"Yes, it had to be," United's caretaker boss said on his club's website.

"I've had so many texts from friends saying this year is going to be the year that we'll get through because of my (old shirt) number, 20, and it being 20 years ago.

"We're off to the Nou Camp again."

On that famous night in 1999, which saw United clinch a remarkable Treble, Solskjaer added: "It was the biggest night I've had in football. Of course, for all of us in that team, it was an unbelievable night.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has happy memories of Barcelona
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has happy memories of Barcelona (Owen Humphreys/PA)

"It's a great stadium...and, of course, we met (Barcelona) in the group stages as well that year – 3-3 each both home and away. It'll be a good game."

He added: "We want these games against the biggest clubs and the biggest teams.

"We had the finals against them in 2009 and 2011 (both of which Barcelona won) and the semi-final in 2008 when Scholesy (Paul Scholes) scored (to set up a final meeting with Chelsea), and it's those games that our supporters and this club crave.

"We are looking forward to this one."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp cautioned against treating Porto lightly, even though the Reds beat them 5-0 on aggregate in the last 16 of last season's competition, with all the goals coming in a one-sided first leg in Portugal.

He said: "I could not be further away from thinking it's the best draw because it isn't – it is just the draw, it's the opponent we have to prepare for and that's all we will be thinking about from when we start preparing for the game."

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Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane celebrates scoring against Southampton on March 9, 2019
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