Champions League still out of City's reach: Pep

From left: Manchester City players Sergio Aguero, Angelino and Bernardo Silva in training ahead of today's Champions League clash with Atalanta. City are top of Group C with six points from two matches, while the Serie A side have yet to collect a po
From left: Manchester City players Sergio Aguero, Angelino and Bernardo Silva in training ahead of today's Champions League clash with Atalanta. City are top of Group C with six points from two matches, while the Serie A side have yet to collect a point following two defeats.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes the Premier League champions are still not strong enough at either end of the field to count themselves as realistic contenders to win the Champions League for the first time.

His team are the bookmakers' favourites to finally land the biggest prize in European club football after more than a decade of huge investment from the club's Abu Dhabi owners.

However, the Spaniard, who has won the Champions League twice as a manager and once as a player at Barcelona, feels City's lack of composure at both ends of the pitch this season could cost them against bigger teams.

At his pre-match press conference ahead of today's Group C match with bottom side Atalanta at the Etihad, Guardiola said: "In this competition, you have to be strong in the boxes and this season, we're not incredibly strong in the boxes.

"I have full trust in my team, but there's a lot of strong teams. We're going to try (to win the Champions League), but I don't know if we'll win. If we don't, we'll try again next season.

"I never played one game without thinking I can't win, but I played every game thinking I could lose. I don't know but we'll try."

While he remains unsure whether City are capable of becoming European champions in his fourth season in charge, they look nailed-on to progress to the knockout phase with a double-header to come against a Serie A side who have looked outclassed so far, suffering two losses in as many games.

Urging his players to "take the chance to improve tomorrow", he added: "We need six more points to qualify." City have six points from two wins so far.

Joao Cancelo, who yesterday spoke alongside Guardiola, was, however, more optimistic than his boss, insisting City "is one of the teams that can win the Champions League".

The Portugal defender, who looks set to keep his place despite Kyle Walker's return to training, said: "Pep is the best manager in football. It took me some time to learn but it's important the team wins.

"I've been happy to wait for my moment and I took the opportunity to play. I've been aiming to win this competition since I was a child. I came here because it's my type of football."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAN CITY V ATALANTA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2019, with the headline 'Champions League still out of City's reach: Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe