Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has responded to recent suggestions that Man City are favorites to win the Champions League this season. Maurizio Sarri recently added his voice to those tipping the Sky Blues to win their first Champions League trophy this season. The Chelsea boss feels Man City and Juventus will win the competition this term.
But in a swift response, the City boss has come out to refute the claim. Speaking at the Festival dello Sport in Italy, he stated:
“Manchester City can’t be considered the favourite for the Champions League. Our history tells us that a semi-final is the maximum we could get. I don’t know if we are ready.
“We should be very, very good to be favourite. Juve, for example, are getting closer and closer,” he concluded.
Both managers disagree on City’s chances but agree on Juventus having a chance. It would be recalled that the Italian giants pulled a surprise on the football world this summer by signing the former Real Madrid talisman in a deal worth €100m. Given the role the Portuguese captain played for the 13-time champions as he helped them win a third consecutive title last term, the Bianconeri immediately stand a good chance with him in their lineup.
But the Sky Blues have also been in top form since the beginning of last season despite bowing out at the quarter-final stage to eventual finalists Liverpool. It’s been a mixed bag this season after enduring a 2-1 home loss to Lyon in the opening match.
The team bounced back in the next game, beating German side Hoffeinham away from home. With the results, the Cityzens are still expected to top the group and even go all the way to the final.
However, managers playing down their teams' chances is not a new tactic in football. It is usually aimed at taking pressure off the players as was expertly utilised by Claudio Ranieri in Leicester City’s unlikely run to the Premier League title in 2016.
All the same, Guardiola may also be expressing his genuine feelings as the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and even Paris Saint-Germain are all still in the running. All of these, except the French giants are highly experienced in the competition and City will need to be at their very best to make it to the final ahead of them and lift the trophy.
So Guardiola’s reasoning is perfectly understandable.
Yet, the players must be infused with enough confidence to believe they can win it. Winning the Champions League is not all about experience as most of the past winners were not experienced in the competition when they won their first trophy.
It is more a matter of the quality available in the team and the management. The Catalan has been backed up with quality signings that make City one of the most talented squads in Europe. He was also contracted because of his accomplishments in the competition with Barcelona.
After two seasons in charge, it’s about time City stood up to be counted on the continent. With over €500m already invested in player recruitment, there is no more excuse for failure.
Sarri clearly knows what he is talking about. The Italian manager has faced Guardiola’s City thrice already and come up short on all occasions. His technically well-drilled Napoli side suffered two defeats in the competition at the hands of Man City last season. Another meeting with the side as Chelsea boss in the Community Shield also ended in a loss.
Guardiola needs to extend this sort of dominance to other sides in Europe and take City to the summit of European football. This is what is expected of him in his third season at the Etihad Stadium, and beyond.