City plan to keep flawless run going

LONDON • Pep Guardiola is calm about Manchester City's potential opponents in the Champions League knockout stages as the Spaniard is expecting a tough fixture regardless, and says the Premier League leaders are focused only on winning.

City reached the last 16 earlier this month and are top of Group F, after extending their winning run to 17 matches across all competitions with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord on Tuesday thanks to Raheem Sterling's 88th-minute goal.

Guardiola's former teams Barcelona and Bayern Munich are among City's potential opponents in the next round, with the draw for the knockout stages to be held on Dec 11.

"We play to win the games and after, we will see how things finish," the City manager told reporters at the Etihad after the match.

"It is important that City have got 15 points at this stage for the first time, and we are going to go now to Shakhtar (Donetsk) to try to go and win the game.

"In the last 16, it doesn't matter which one (you get), it always will be complicated."

City could become the first English club to win all six of their Champions League group matches if they beat Shakhtar on Dec 6.

Only six teams have previously won all six of their group games: AC Milan in 1992, Paris Saint-Germain in 1994, Spartak Moscow in 1995, Barcelona in 2002 and Real Madrid in 2011 and 2014.

Kevin de Bruyne will miss City's game against Shakhtar through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign.

Feyenoord's defeat meant the Dutch side finished bottom of the group and could not rescue even the consolation prize of a Europa League berth, but coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst was pleased with his team's application.

"When you compare this to the first game, when we were pretty useless (losing 0-4 to City in September), it shows how far we have come in the Champions League," he said. "It's been a good experience for us. Hopefully, we can walk away from the Champions League with our heads held high."

City have an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League and Guardiola's side travel to Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2017, with the headline 'City plan to keep flawless run going'. Print Edition | Subscribe