Manchester City not playing well enough to win title - Guardiola
MANCHESTER CITY boss Pep Guardiola claims his team are not playing well enough as they prepare to launch their Champions League campaign.
Guardiola's men received widespread praise for a lot of their play, particularly in the first-half, in last Saturday's 2-1 derby defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford. That success in the Premier League was City's sixth victory in succession since Guardiola took charge, but the Spaniard insists there is still much to prove.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Tuesday's clash with Borussia Monchengladbach, Guardiola said: "We are now after four games in the Premier League, but I would like to tell this brilliant audience and our fans, we are first in the Premier League, but the way we have played until now, it will not be enough to win the Premier League.
"We have to improve to win the Premier League. Of course, we are so happy for the results, for the numbers, for the way we are playing after two months, but it is not enough to win the Premier League or to achieve big targets in the Champions League."
Last week, Guardiola played down much of the hype surrounding the eagerly-anticipated clash against United and the potential psychological impact of victory. He maintains that stance, even though the manner in which City took the game to their rivals, who have also been tipped to challenge for honours this term, sent out a strong message to opponents.
Guardiola said: "We made good things and bad things and we have to improve for the future. Of course, we are happy, but that is all. It is just three points."
One negative aspect for City has been the criticism levelled at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo after a difficult debut. The Chilean, signed from Barcelona for £17million last month, made the mistake which led to United's goal and had several other anxious moments.
Guardiola, who controversially axed England number one Joe Hart, was again forced to defend his man: "He is so strong. I saw the game [again] yesterday we played against United to realise the things we made good and which things we have to improve," he said.
"I saw the goal and what happened in the the three or four actions after, when he received the ball. He showed huge personality. That is what I tried to say after the game. I was convinced before the game and, after seeing it again, it is the same. But I am going to tell you something. Claudio Bravo, Willy [Caballero] and Angus [Gunn] are going to make mistakes in the future, they are not going to save all the goals and opponents are going to score goals. I am pretty sure of that."
Guardiola has now turned his attention to the Champions League and the visit of Monchengladbach. In a group which includes favourites Barcelona, City are keen to get off to a good start: "They are a brave team, [with a] brave coach - one of the best teams in Europe," he said.
"They have a lot of quality. The draw was difficult for us, Barcelona was there, especially with Gladbach."
Picture by PA
Some talking points ahead of Tuesday's game...
IMPORTANCE OF A WINNING START
With Barcelona the clear favourites to win Group C, City cannot afford to make a slow start against a team that will be hopeful of pushing for second spot. With home advantage, good form and confidence from an impressive derby performance and win behind them, City should back themselves to come through against a side they beat twice - albeit with a little difficulty - last season.
COMEDOWN AFTER DERBY ELATION
There have been a number of occasions in City's recent Champions League history when the atmosphere has fallen flat. There are different reasons for this - including supporter antipathy towards organisers Uefa - and this time, after such an exhilarating derby win, there is the potential for it all to feel a little after the lord mayor's show.
But Pep Guardiola is a past master at preparing for such games and even tried to downplay the pre-derby hype by making clear Monchengladbach was in his thinking.
IMPORTANCE OF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
The determination of City to establish themselves as a European force is well known and bringing in Guardiola, a two-time Champions League winner as coach, is clear evidence of their ambition. Guardiola has already referred to the competition as "beautiful" this season and City obviously want to make an impact.
After five seasons of steady progression, they will hope for another long run.
ATTENTION ON BRAVO
Claudio Bravo endured a difficult debut for City against Manchester United last Saturday, making a mistake that led to a goal and having some other awkward moments. Guardiola may have made clear his desire for a ball-playing goalkeeper, but the Chilean struggled with some of the fundamental handling areas his position requires.
After the controversial decision to discard Joe Hart, Bravo needs to convince and his performance will be analysed.
WILL KOMPANY RETURN?
City's impressive start to the season has come without input from their inspirational captain Vincent Kompany because of injury. In the past, the team have struggled in his absence and that they are functioning so well without him can only bode well collectively.
What it might mean for him personally is another matter, however, as he still has to convince that he can shake off his recurring fitness problems. He is now close to a return and, if he features, he will find himself with something to prove.