Pep Guardiola insists it is ‘impossible’ to play a final without emotion ahead of Man City’s historic Club World Cup showdown against Fluminense… as Kyle Walker insists the team ‘don’t get bored of confetti coming down’

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Pep Guardiola adheres to a few rituals every game. Always has done, always will do. Whether it’s an FA Cup tie against Huddersfield or Friday night’s Club World Cup final.

Sit on the bench an hour ahead of kick-off to stare at the grass. Win, lose or draw, down a glass of red. Before all that, punch in the number of his father, Valenti.

Guardiola Snr is in his early 90s and still residing in Santpedor, up in the hills north of Barcelona. They’ll speak in the hours before Manchester City attempt to make history against Fluminense, the club bidding to become the first English club to win the five big trophies in a calendar year.

Valenti, who will watch his son’s latest date with destiny alongside his neighbour on TV, came to Guardiola’s mind here in Jeddah as the Copa Libertadores champions bristled at some suggestions that their ageing squad resemble Dad’s army, more suited to Soccer Aid, than FIFA’s pinnacle.

‘I have huge respect for the essence of Brazil,’ Guardiola said. ‘As a little boy I listened to my dad telling me the way Brazil had success with all previous generations.

Man City boss Pep Guardiola insists it is ‘impossible’ to play a final without emotion as they bid for history in the Club World Cup

City are bidding to become the first English team to win the five major trophies in a calendar year

City are bidding to become the first English team to win the five major trophies in a calendar year

‘Fluminense play a typically Brazilian style from the 70s, 80s and early 90s. I love it. A lot of short passes, really good combinations. We’ll have to be aware of how much they run in behind. They demand a lot of effort. It’s important to be precise. We’ve never faced a team that plays this way.’

The way he spoke so glowingly about the country, a country who hope he takes the national reins at some point, makes you think about what the Club World Cup is about to turn into. And that’s before you get going on the European Super League

With the new expanded format from 2025, the idea of Europe facing South America in a final seems fanciful.

If this tournament in its current guise feels predictable and not overly glamorous, then it’s soon to become an extension of UEFA’s Champions League. Teams from across the world can edge one-off games against Europe’s elite but are unlikely to be capable of navigating through a 32-team competition with landmines everywhere.

In that sense, City have nipped in at the nick of time for a traditional clash of continental styles on the biggest stage; Fluminense playing without fixed positions, City wedded to care. Fluminense, further stoked by rage at criticism, leaning on emotion. City trying to supress that. 

‘Social media allows people to say things even if they are not very smart,’ Felipe Melo said. His manager, Fernando Diniz, asked for ‘respect’. ‘What we will show is that we are not a Soccer Aid team,’ Diniz added.

Guardiola credited Fluminense for playing an attractive brand of football - one that they have not come across before

Guardiola credited Fluminense for playing an attractive brand of football – one that they have not come across before

City captain Kyle Walker said his team-mates would never tire of the 'confetti coming down'

City captain Kyle Walker said his team-mates would never tire of the ‘confetti coming down’

Guardiola has three of these titles but went back to his first, in 2009, to find proof that City cannot just turn up and make history in Saudi Arabia. Only Pedro’s 89th-minute equaliser spared their blushes against Argentina’s Estudiantes, Lionel Messi eventually doing the honours in extra time.

‘How do you play a final without emotion?’ Guardiola said. ‘How do we do that? It’s impossible. The emotions are there, the fears and thoughts are there. It’s about how you handle it. The thing is how long it stays in your mind. That final with Barcelona, we were out. Everyone said, “ah they are favourites they will win” but we were out. It’s so difficult and complicated.’

Kyle Walker, who claimed earlier in the week that City remain behind rivals Manchester United in the great ‘best Premier League team of all time’ debate, became somewhat misty-eyed at the prospect of lifting the trophy. As the team did when Riyad Mahrez, now with Jeddah’s Al-Ahli, turned up for dinner on Wednesday night.

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‘The amount of names who have done it… look at (Manuel) Neuer, (Sergio) Ramos,’ he said. ‘I’d be in that bracket as captain. For me it’s about the club, putting the club where it wants to be. It’s for the fans to have travelled from Maine Road and come through the stages.’

A few hundred have travelled across from Manchester, enjoying the shisha bars along the corniche, with thousands of Middle Eastern supporters here too. It does feel like a moment in time for City, with Walker insistent that this is the beginning, not the end.

‘You don’t get bored of the confetti coming down,’ the right back said. ‘It’s why the owners have invested so much and why we’ve got the manager and players we’ve got.

‘If we win it’ll be the icing on the cake and top off last season, finally winning the Champions League. That was a big step. To top it off and win the four we really wanted would be fantastic. It’d be on par with one of my greatest achievements.’

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