'Manchester City are not the best in Europe' – Guardiola plays down lofty billing
Posted On March 22, 2019
Maurizio Sarri’s wholesome praise has not convinced the Catalan coach that his reigning Premier League champions are the finest side on the continent
Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City need Champions League glory before they can consider themselves the best team in Europe.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri bestowed such a label on City and his friend Guardiola ahead of the two sides meeting at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The reigning Premier League champions are top of the table once more and undefeated after 15 games of their title defence, having amassed 100 points last time around.
They also collected the Carabao Cup but lost 5-1 on aggregate to Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in April.
Guardiola’s contrasting experiences in Europe’s top competition while in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich means he knows his team’s performances on that stage remain critical to how they are judged overall.
“Thank you but we are not the best,” he told a pre-match news conference. “To be the best you have to win the titles and we didn’t win the titles to be the best team in Europe.”
City still need a point from their final Group F game against Hoffenheim next week to be sure of top spot, but that comes after a mouth-watering clash against Chelsea.
Guardiola and Sarri’s mutual respect was to the fore during City and Napoli’s Champions League clashes last season and the Catalan is full of admiration for the manner in which his counterpart has implemented an attacking, high-pressing style with the Blues – an approach very much at odds to that of predecessor Antonio Conte.
“The job he has done so far, from my point of view, is excellent,” he said, despite the scrutiny invited by Chelsea’s recent defeats to Tottenham and Wolves.
“People do not know how difficult it is to create a special way to play. You need time, everybody needs time.
“Apart from the last two games – winning at Tottenham away is so difficult, Wolves too. That can happen in this league.
“Just in pre-season when we played against them in the Community Shield [City won 2-0 at Wembley in August], it was already his team, the way he wants to play.
“Maybe they are not playing 90 minutes but when they play good for 50, 60, 70, 75 minutes they are excellent.”
Having such a challenge ahead of him meant Guardiola predictably gave a question over the possibility of City completing an unbeaten Premier League season the short shrift.
“I don’t care about that. Believe me, it is the least important thing. There are more important things that we have to think about,” he added.
“Just to win the next game and play good – that is our target. It [being unbeaten] is not important.”
City will again be without Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne as the duo close in on returns from respective adductor and knee injuries.