Winning FA Cup would be best way to prepare for Real Madrid clash

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola got the better of Newcastle counterpart Steve Bruce

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) got the better of Newcastle counterpart Steve Bruce at St James’ Park

Pep Guardiola challenged his players to Manchester City to prepare for their opening of the Champions League with Real Madrid, winning the FA Cup.

City will face Real in a mini-tournament at the end of the season, when they return to European action and, having transferred their Premier League crown to Liverpool last week, they are determined to add another trophy to their collection before capture horns with the Spanish giants.

They took a significant step toward doing so on Sunday, when they booked the FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal, beating Newcastle 2-0 in St James’ Park, and Guardiola is not in the mood to let his people stop at achieved.

He said: “We are delighted after the defeat against Chelsea to be in London again at Wembley to play against Arsenal in the semi-final to try to reach the final of the FA Cup.

“Always it’s an incredible trophy and it gives us an extra bonus. We spoke after what happened in the Premier League – we need two more victories to qualify for Champions League.

“But we have two competitions we can win. We made the first step today. It will be good to arrive against Real Madrid in the best condition.

“To win this title would be the best way to prepare for Madrid.”

City were completely dominant on Tyneside, where they drew in the league earlier this season, losing 11 months ago, but they needed a rush of blood from quarterback Fabian Schar to open their account.

Newcastle United v Manchester City - FA Cup - Quarter Final - St James' Park

Kevin De Bruyne celebrated his 29th birthday in style (Shaun Botterill/NMC Pool)

Schar in vain pushed striker Gabriel Jesus to the ground inside the box to give Kevin de Bruyne a chance to celebrate his 29th birthday with a penalty in the 37th minute, and he is duly obligated.

Despite his inferiority for the night, Newcastle had really leveled when replacing Dwight Gayle relay races from the point of aim of the 66th minute and Raheem Sterling made it pay almost immediately with a neat finish to wrap the win.

Guardiola said: “It was a fantastic goal from Raheem. For the penalty, I didn’t see the review. Gabriel Jesus could have headed the ball and I think the opponent pushed him.

“De Bruyne is definitely reliable and hopefully he can carry on because we struggled a lot this season with this.”

It proved a disappointing evening for Magpies head coach Steve Bruce, who admitted his side’s first-half display had not been good enough.

He said: “When you’re playing against teams like this, you can’t make the type of mistake we have done for the penalty. Unfortunately, we gave a poor, poor penalty away and it’s difficult enough because of the ability they’ve got.

“In the second half, we were much better and brighter, and the big turning point – could we have made it a really good cup tie had we equalised?

“Who knows whether we would have been able to go on from there, but we were certainly better in the second half.”

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