MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola believes that Champions League opponents Manchester City can be the surprise package of the competition in the manner that Borussia Dortmund were last season.
Dortmund exceeded expectations by casting off a long spell of disappointments in Europe and reached the all-Bundesliga final, where they were beaten by Bayern at Wembley Stadium.
Bayern and City will fight it out for top spot in Group D at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, having both won their opening pool fixtures.
Bayern were 3-0 winners over CSKA Moscow at the Allianz Arena and City won by the same scoreline at Viktoria Pilsen, suggesting that their games against each other will hold the key to reaching the last 16.
"City are one of the biggest clubs in Europe," said Guardiola, who on Tuesday completed 100 days in charge of the German champions.
"They didn't get through the group stage in the last two seasons, but I am 100 per cent confident they will get through.
"They have an incredible squad, and have played very well so far, so it will be a big test for us.
"In the last years they have made big steps forward. They won the Premier League, and this year would be the first time they qualify for the knockout stages.
"If they get through, they will be one of the toughest teams in the next round. Like Dortmund last season, it was the first time they qualified. I have the same feeling it can happen again." City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who lost home and away to Guardiola's Barcelona in his sole season in charge at Real Madrid, claimed this week that the Catalan would be "worrying about the Manchester City team".
However, City have hardly enjoyed ideal preparations. A surprise 3-2 defeat at Aston Villa, where they twice led, saw the 2012 English champions slide from third to fifth in the Premier League table.
Bayern, meanwhile, stretched their unbeaten record in the Bundesliga to 32 matches thanks to a second-half winner from Thomas Mueller in a 1-0 victory over Wolfsburg, to remain level on points with leaders Dortmund.
Guardiola, who was linked with the City vacancy before taking over in Munich, has never lost against a team managed by Pellegrini, yet he expressed much admiration for his opponent and his style of football.
"That's not important," he said of his unblemished record against the Chilean.
"I am really impressed with Manuel. I would like to be like him. No matter which team he is training, his teams always play in the same way.
"His trademark is always left on the team, whether at Villarreal, Malaga or Real Madrid. If I beat them, it was because I was training one of the best teams in the world.
"Now I have a good challenge because I have one of the best teams in Europe. I have to keep them at the same level.
"For me it is a pleasure to play against Manuel. He loves to play football, to keep the ball. It will be a good test for both teams." Bayern's last visit to the Etihad Stadium in December 2011 ended in a 2-0 defeat, but the scoreline did not tell the whole story.
The visitors were already assured of finishing at the top of the qualifying group and star names such as Franck Ribery, Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer were all rested.