Pep Guardiola insisted his Manchester City players must “control our emotions” after Jack Grealish was caught up in some heated scenes during the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid.
City emerged 1-0 winners after a close-run battle at the Etihad on Tuesday night, with Kevin de Bruyne’s 70th minute strike proving to be the difference. Atletico dug in and gave away very little in true Diego Simeone style, with the small cushion setting up an exciting second leg.
Tempers flared on the pitch as the game wore on, and the introduction of the daring Grealish certainly added more spice to the occasion. The England international managed to win five fouls after being introduced midway through the second half.
Grealish’s trademark ability to draw fouls clearly incensed the Atletico players, with Sime Vrsaljko flicking Grealish’s hair in frustration, while Stefan Savic taunted the winger at one stage, riling up Grealish even more and prompting a minor confrontation at full-time.
The scenes were clearly not to Guardiola’s liking, who warned Grealish that the intensity would be even higher in a weeks time at the Metropolitano Stadium. He said: “We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do [in Madrid]. There will be a referee there in an incredible stadium, a good environment.
“Only when manager’s make substitutions is because it’s going a little bit bad and sometimes it doesn’t work and it worked. The guys were playing but we knew with Gabriel and Phil they had a special energy and Jack for the quality of keeping the ball. To be the manager was so special.”
Before next Wednesday’s second leg, City face a crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool that is set to determine the title race. And with such a short turnaround before they play Atletico again, Guardiola gave little away about their approach for such an important period.
“We have to be focused on what we have to do,” he added. “It’s difficult to face a team with a lot of experience in this kind of competition, we’re going to go there and try to win the game. We’ll see what happens. We have five days to prepare for Liverpool and just three days in Madrid and we’ll see.”