Progress makes Pep ‘delighted’

Progress makes Pep ‘delighted’

LONDON • Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City’s consistent progression from the group stage of the Champions League is not being given enough credit.

The English Premier League team can move to the brink of a place in the last 16 with a home win over Greek outfit Olympiakos in Group C today.

Into his fifth campaign in charge at Manchester, Guardiola has received fierce criticism for failing to get beyond the Champions League quarter-finals.

But he pointed to the struggles of Real Madrid, who have taken just one point from their opening two group games, as an example of how his side’s ability to get through with minimum fuss is underestimated.

“Qualifying is the most important thing because every year there are important clubs (who do not),” the City manager said at his virtual pre-match press conference yesterday. “Today the competition is not like one decade ago when I started as a manager, qualifying was easier than right now.”

City are sitting pretty in their group with maximum points from their opening two games against Porto and Marseille and he is keen to mathematically reach the knockout stage – for City’s eighth straight season – as soon as possible.

Doing so will allow him to give some key players a rest, with a brutal schedule – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – already taking a toll on his squad.

“Every game is difficult, people don’t believe it,” added Guardiola. “With this situation around the world, everything is more uncertain for all the clubs.

“Today, it doesn’t matter where you have to do a good game to beat them, it’s a tricky competition.

“That’s why I am delighted with what we have done so far and why we cannot miss this chance.”

The Spaniard also insisted his attention would not be drawn to Sunday’s clash with champions Liverpool in the Premier League as he was fully focused on Olympiakos.

However, there was encouraging news ahead of the weekend, as he hinted that Sergio Aguero may be fit to return, while Gabriel Jesus has also resumed training after six weeks out.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANCHESTER CITY V OLYMPIAKOS

Singtel TV Ch111, tomorrow, 3.55am