Guardiola fires bold Champions League warning that Man City’s rivals will hate

Guardiola fires bold Champions League warning that Man City's rivals will hate

Pep Guardiola has warned Europe that Manchester City believe they will retain the Champions League.

City go into the last 16 as huge favourites to overcome Danish underdogs FC Copenhagen and go on to lift the trophy they won for the first time in Istanbul last June.

Guardiola admitted that when he arrived at the Etihad in 2016, he took over a club that wasn’t convinced it was good enough to compete at the highest level. But the Blues’ boss reckons last season’s historic Treble was the breakthrough moment that has given his team the confidence to show that they are in a class of their own.

Guardiola said: “When I arrived eight years ago, I had the feeling that maybe this competition was too much for us. Our defeats and bad moments helped us to grow up and be in the position we are – two finals and one semi-final in the last three years – and the whole club has awareness that we can now try to be ourselves.

“Before it was ‘are you sure Pep, are we ready to do it?’ Now the whole organisation believes we can do it. This is the best legacy that we give to the club and to the team that Manchester City can compete. That is so good.

“When we lost the final to Chelsea two years ago, we lost one game in the whole competition – and it was in the final. After that, when we lost in the semi-final against Real [Madrid], we always competed. Now we have won all our group games.

“Maybe tomorrow we don’t play a good game and we don’t behave well – but I don’t think it will be different to the last three or four years. We challenge ourselves and we challenge the opponents who want to beat us. We feel it more than ever in the Premier League and the Champions League – and we want to do it again.”‌

Guardiola has tried to defuse talk of City completing another Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup Treble. But City are well placed in all three competitions – and their manager reckons the pain of previous devastating European defeats is driving them on to even greater heights.

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Rodri lifts the Champions League trophy


Manchester City are aiming to defend their Champions League crown
(
Getty Images)

He said: “I haven’t seen mental problems with the team, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are. I said in summer it would be interesting to see how we react to the Treble, if we would be lazy. But I didn’t have that feeling.

“We dropped points and lost games but the behaviour in training and how the players listened to me made me think that maybe this is the season when we come back from losing positions.

“We were not good at doing that before. When we conceded goals it was the end of the world in many games. We have good characters and personalities in the team with how they react in the bad moments.

But the City boss is taking nothing for granted against the team that slayed Manchester United to emerge from a group that also included Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.

It will be 63 days since Copenhagen’s last competitive break before Denmark’s winter break saw them beat Galatasaray to reach the knock-out stages. And Guardiola warned: “They will be starving to compete, be hungry and have full energy, fresh legs and mind. I don’t know about their rhythm, but they have had lots of time to prepare for the game.”

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