Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola: Manchester City can't afford to switch off at home

By Mark Ogden

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players to heed the lessons of AC Milan's 2005 Istanbul capitulation against Liverpool to avoid being embarrassed by Steaua Bucharest in tonight's Champions League Play-Off second-leg.

City have as good as secured their place in tomorrow's draw for the Champions League group stages after cruising to a 5-0 first-leg victory over Steaua in Romania last week.

With such a commanding lead, Guardiola is ready to make changes to his team in order to freshen his squad ahead of Sunday's Premier League encounter with West Ham United.

But despite the 5-0 advantage, the City manager insists that Liverpool's success in overhauling a 3-0 half-time deficit to win the Champions League final against Milan 11 years ago should act as a warning that Steaua are capable of producing an incredible upset.

"Of course we start 5-0, so it's almost impossible to be better than that. We are delighted about that," said Guardiola.

"But why wouldn't we respect our opponent and take them seriously? We play to try to win the game.

"I have seen many times in the Champions League, at half-time an experienced team like AC Milan 3-0 ahead, and the final is done. But Liverpool won the Champions League final. That Milan was Maldini, Cafu, more experienced guys."

Guardiola, meanwhile, has defended Raheem Sterling following the winger's treatment at the hands of rival supporters so far this season.

Sterling was loudly booed and jeered by Stoke fans at the Britannia Stadium at the weekend, but Guardiola insists the frmer Liverpool player should take it as a compliment.

"The fans may boo because they know how good he is," Guardiola said.

"He showed me from the start that he is mentally strong. He is focused on his job. That's it.

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