Manchester City can’t yet consider themselves the equal of Barcelona or Real Madrid, City manager Pep Guardiola has insisted despite a stunning season that has seen his side installed as Champions League favourites.
The runaway Premier League leaders will secure their place in the last eight of the Champions League for just the second time in their history barring a remarkable last 16, second leg collapse when they host Basel on Wednesday, boasting a 4-0 first leg lead.
Guardiola sees City’s status as favourites ahead of former clubs Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and holders Real Madrid as a testament to their form this season.
“When I am talking about we are favourites to win the Champions League, it’s an honour,” Guardiola said on Tuesday.
“If you don’t play good at Manchester City… the people are not going to say that because we don’t have (a) legacy.”
However, Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice in a glorious four-year spell at Barcelona, believes the experience of the two Spanish giants in Europe’s premier club competition gives them an upper hand.
Madrid and Barca have combined to win the Champions League for the past four years, and Guardiola cited Madrid’s 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their blockbuster last 16 clash as evidence of why league form can count for little in European competition.
“Before the first game against PSG people said ‘Madrid is not good, PSG is going to win, is a top team’ and Madrid win 3-1 because Madrid has 12 Champions Leagues and it is a lot.
“It is a different competition, it is moments. Tomorrow we have the chance to be in quarter-finals for the second time in our history and that is so important.”
– Hungry for silverware –
City won their first trophy of Guardiola’s reign in charge by beating Arsenal in the League Cup final nine days ago, and seem destined to add the Premier League title as they hold a 16-point lead at the top of the table.
However, the Catalan coach rejected suggestions he is building a dynasty like he did at Barcelona.
“It’s not good for us comparing with that team because that team dominate the last decade with different managers and different players. They won a lot, a lot of things.
“We won just the first title so to be or think about joining this kind of team you have to be there a long, long time and a long time means many years.”
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan scored twice in City’s stroll past Basel in the first leg in Switzerland three weeks ago.
However, the German, who reached the Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, also stressed City can’t get ahead of themselves with tougher tests to come from the quarter-finals on.
“I think the results of the last games, it doesn’t matter if in the Champions League, Premier League or other competitions because they were quite good, so a lot of people try to see us at the same level as Barca, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, but we still feel like we need to compete with them.
“We are not there yet. We are on a very good way and, if we have to play one day against them, we want to be ready.”