Pep Guardiola insists he doesn’t feel pressure to win the Champions League as Manchester City prepare to begin their knockout stage campaign.
City travel to face Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday evening, as the Premier League champions look to reach the latter stages of Europe’s leading competition.
Guardiola’s side progressed to a maiden final last season, though were beaten by Chelsea to extend their wait for success in the Champions League.
City have dominated domestically across the past decade but have so far found success in Europe elusive, but Guardiola insists he does not feel added pressure when it comes to bringing the Champions League trophy to the Etihad.
“You can ask as many times as you want [about the pressure]. Does it bother me? No,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference.
“We are here, we are in the Champions League. It is an honour, a pleasure to travel to Portugal to try to compete well and try to win the game. [What happens] on the grass will dictate our chances. At the end, it is [down to] the players on the pitch.
“I have been in the business as a manager – we are exposed and get punished by the criticism when you don’t get results. No just me, all the managers. It is not absolutely a problem. Otherwise you have to decide to do another job.
“To do better than last season is not easy. We are excited and happy to be in this competition at this stage. I know how important the Champions League is – we cannot deny it – but we take every Premier League game seriously and we saw how we behaved against Norwich was the best proof that we want to do it every single game, not just in the Champions League.
“We are on an incredible run. In Leipzig [where City lost 2-1 in their final Group A fixture], I would say we were not prepared mentally; we had already qualified before that game and we were not ready, but the rest, we were there all the time.
“This is what I want. We performed for ourselves; we compete for ourselves. What we are looking for is to behave every game like we have to. We have done it in the last years and I think there will not be an exception tomorrow.”
City are nine points clear at the top of the Premier League and unbeaten in all competitions since that defeat to RB Leipzig in December, with Guardiola having praised the togetherness and harmony in his squad.
“The main target is to have an incredible harmony,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference. “The harmony right now is exceptional. Thanks to the captains and for many reasons.
“Always, we have had a good harmony in the team. Otherwise we would not have won what we have won.
“When new players arrive, there is time to settle. I’ve never had problems being with the team.
“Right now in the season, what I am fighting for every single minute is to have a good relationship, respect each other and fight for the position.
“In football, the most difficult thing is that every day they are enemies because they fight for one position in the team and after they have to be brothers in the game.
“That is not easy to handle. That is why there can be problems, because everyone wants to play, but if they have the respect for each other, the rest is easy.”