PEP Guardiola has said his side Manchester City would be doing something special only if they retain the UEFA Champions League this season.
The Spaniard led City to their first-ever Champions League title and completed the Treble by also winning the Premier League and the FA Cup, becoming only the second English club to achieve the feat after Manchester United in 1999.
“It’s difficult to win the first Champions League. It’s incredible for Manchester City in history. Let’s try to win tomorrow against Red Star Belgrade who is so aggressive and fast upfront,” Guardiola said today during his press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s opening clash against the Serbian club.
“Every season, we start the Champions League, the first game, always the target is to win. First the group stage, then last-16, try to win. We didn’t change when we didn’t win. Nothing more than Red Star, it depends on our performance and level.”
Although Guardiola won two Champions League titles with Barcelona, it was not back-to-back, and he hopes to do it with City and emulate some European giants.
“Just Madrid or Milan did it in a few years in a row. I was incredible proud to be Barcelona manager we won two times but not in a row. It’s difficult, but we try.”
This season’s final is scheduled for Wembley in London, and Guardiola said: “I didn’t think [about it]. Win the first one, after when you have to think of the final is the quarters and semis. The first game in these months, it’s a long time.
“First year here, Monaco last-16, we try to win. Nothing changes. Now we won, it’s done – it’s not done! We’re happy, but every time we see the four trophies, it makes me so happy. Live for memories? I wouldn’t be here.”
City are overwhelming favourites not only to beat Red Star tomorrow night at the Etihad but to also breeze through the group, with the other teams there being Young Boys of Switzerland and RB Leipzig of Germany.
Still, Guardiola is wary of the Serbian champions, who won the European Cup (which later became the Champions League) in 1991.
“They’re so aggressive, they don’t defend man to man but sometimes do and we have to be ready. Quick in transitions, 5-3-2, we have to be able to read well,” he noted.
Guardiola revealed that two of his key players, Mateo Kovacic and Jack Grealish, have been ruled out of the encounter with injuries.
City have won all their five Premier League games this season while their rivals Manchester United and Chelsea have struggled with just two wins and one win respectively.
The Spaniard is tipping them to return to good form soon.
“They didn’t start like they expect, Man United with Chelsea, sooner or later they will take the rhythm.”
There will be eight matches tomorrow night as the Champions League group stage returns, with AC Milan hosting Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain welcoming Borussia Dortmund in a very competitive Group F.