'Champions League a different ball game'

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes his side still have some way to go if they are to lift their maiden Champions League trophy.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes his side still have some way to go if they are to lift their maiden Champions League trophy.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola wary of high demands in Europe's top-tier club football as City qualify for last 16

LYON • Manchester City are sweeping all before them again in the Premier League, having scored 40 times in 13 matches to go top, but Pep Guardiola acknowledged they still have some way to go if they are to lift their maiden Champions League trophy.

The English champions had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 at Lyon and often found themselves on the back foot against the only side to have beaten them this term. The French Ligue 1 side won 2-1 in their Group F opener.

And although Guardiola's men secured their progression to the last 16 for the sixth straight season on Tuesday, he conceded his team were finding it much tougher in Europe as the level of play was higher.

"Today the Champions League showed me again that it's a different competition," the Spaniard admitted. "The players are better. The demand is so high.

"Here when you press, they don't lose the ball. When people say it's easy in the Champions League, you cannot imagine how confused they are about that.

"You have time in the Premier League, you have 38 games. Here, you have 90 minutes, 180 minutes, you make mistakes and they punish you."

While City still have to avoid defeat by Hoffenheim next month to secure top spot in the group for a more favourable draw, he was relieved more than anything that domestic priorities can now take precedence again.

"Tonight, we showed personality, we got the point that we needed," the 47-year-old added. "Qualifying for the last 16 means we can now play the League and the Cups and prepare ourselves for February.

"We'll be there again in February (in the knockout phases), one more year for City is good news."

Goals from Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Aguero helped peg back the home side, who are still unbeaten in the competition.

Lyon led thanks to a brace from Maxwel Cornet, who also netted at the Etihad to become the first player since Barcelona's Lionel Messi to score three against City in the Champions League.

But City were fortunate to avoid a second defeat by the French side - the only team to score more than once against them this season - and Guardiola was left impressed by Bruno Genesio's side.

Lyon need to avoid defeat at Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk in their final game to join City in the last 16.

"People say in France, it's just Paris Saint-Germain. But they don't know how tough it is. The (French) league is so complicated, so good, so that's why I give a lot of credit for the result and the performance today," Guardiola told reporters.

"I'm really impressed about the amount of good young talent here in France. Both (Lyon) holding midfielders (Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele) are exceptional.

"They're strong and they have vision. The people in front - (Memphis) Depay, (Nabil) Fekir... it's a team that's well organised, but that's typical in the Champions League."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline ''Champions League a different ball game''. Print Edition | Subscribe