Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City 'are far away' from challenging in Europe

Jack Austin
The Independent
Guardiola stressed the need to qualify for the Champions League: Getty
Guardiola stressed the need to qualify for the Champions League: Getty

Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City “are far away” from challenging the likes of Real Madrid in the Champions League because they cannot yet manage big-game situations.

City crashed out of Europe at the Round of 16 stage at the hands of Monaco, despite taking a 5-3 lead into the second leg – only to lose 3-1 late on after seemingly abandoning defending.

Manchester City fell 2-0 down at half-time in the second leg but only needed an away goal to confirm safe passage to the last eight – which Leroy Sane provided.

However, a 77th-minute Tiemoue Bakayoko goal dumped them out on away goals, leaving a furious Guardiola lamenting his side’s inability to close out games.

Monaco have since take a 3-2 first-leg away lead from Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and when asked where City were in comparison to the teams challenging in the Champions League, Guardiola did not mince his words.

“We are far away,” he said. “Not in terms of the quality, in terms of how they play situations.

“We had that in the Monaco game and we cannot forget how good they are after what they did in Dortmund. We were able to score six goals in two games and we are out.

“It’s about how you live and handle the situation. For that you need experience. Hopefully we got that experience there and it’ll help us next season.”

Manchester City are currently fourth in the Premier League but are on course to finish in the top four, despite the challenges from Manchester United and Arsenal.

And Guardiola stressed just because they exited this year’s edition at an early stage, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be there next season.

“We need to qualify for next season,” he added.

“Not all the magnificent teams are in the quarter-finals. A lot of them are not there. They even went out in the first stage. A lot of amazing teams will be out in the quarter-finals and huge teams. For example, two years ago Juventus went to the final in Berlin. This season, they’re amazing. Last season, they went out in the quarter-finals in the last minute against Bayern Munich.

“The Champions League is so demanding. The people don’t believe you’re out but a lot of situations happen.”

City’s resurgence into the Champions League place has coincided with Sergio Aguero’s return to form after being dropped in favour of Gabriel Jesus and Guardiola put the Argentine’s recent goals – five in his last five Premier League games – down to his better understanding of the tactics.

Sergio Aguero has scored five in his last five league games (Getty)
Sergio Aguero has scored five in his last five league games (Getty)

“I said many times that he’s involved in the game. My feeling before that he was just waiting to score a goal. Now he’s involved in the game. Not just the defensive part - he’s helped us a lot - but he is doing all he can do in our process to create chances. That’s why.

“There are no complaints about what he has done after the injury for Gabriel Jesus.

“Maybe now he understands better what we’re looking for. He’s trying and that is what I want. When he misses chances, always you can improve, but we’ve no complaints.”

What to read next