Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola heaped praise on centre backs Ruben Dias and John Stones after Tuesday’s Champions League win over Borussia Moenchengladbach and said their solid partnership was a key factor in the club’s stellar campaign.
City marched into the quarterfinals of Europe’s elite club competition for a fourth straight season after a 2-0 win over the Germans completed a 4-0 aggregate victory.
Guardiola’s side have not conceded a goal since the opening game of the group stage against FC Porto in October, more than 11 hours of football.
“We just conceded one goal against Porto and that is quite impressive,” Guardiola said. “You can’t deny that Ruben and John made an incredible step forward for the team this season.
“We defend with the ball. That is the most important thing — that when the opponent arrives we are solid enough.”
City have been knocked out by Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Lyon in their last three appearances in the quarters under the Spanish coach and Guardiola said there was pressure on him to deliver the elusive trophy.
“Since the first year I arrived they told me that you have to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “It is always on our shoulders but I’m not concerned about that.
“If you deserve it in football, you go through. I’m not thinking about getting to the semifinals. I’m thinking about playing a good first leg (in the quarterfinals) and then a good second leg.”
The draw for the rest of the competition will be held on Friday.
City, who are 14 points clear of second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League, travel to Everton on Saturday for the FA Cup quarterfinals before the international break. They return to Premier League action on April 3 at Leicester City.