Belfast Telegraph

English teams should win in Champions League, insists Guardiola after Mourinho suggests disadvantage

 

By Evan Bartlett

Pep Guardiola has rubbished Jose Mourinho's claim that English teams are at a disadvantage in the Champions League.

 The Manchester United manager argued that the Premier League is more challenging than other leading leagues, which means teams on the continent can afford to rest players throughout the season and keep them fresh for the closing stages of Europe's elite competition.

"There are differences in relation to other countries," Mourinho said. "Real Madrid last year played the last month in La Liga with a second team. They arrived in the Champions League final with a fresh team.

"Juventus, because they were champions in Italy three months in advance, could play the last month with a second team. That's impossible for English teams, because the competition is very strong until the end."

But Guardiola - who has managed in Spain and Germany - disagrees, arguing each manager must take responsibility for his team's failings.

"I cannot speak for the other four teams in the Champions League," Guardiola said. "But if we don't win or have a good performance, it will be a failure.

"I learned from the beginning - I can accept and handle that."

The City manager is preparing his side for their opening Champions League clash against Feyenoord tonight and has warned his players that the Dutch team will be no pushovers.

"Feyenoord have more European titles than City," Guardiola said. "English teams spend more money but I grew up with the Holland culture and I know how they play.

"There were a lot of Holland players in my (Barcelona) team. I know how they play and the quality of Dutch football."

City spent nearly £200m this summer, bolstering their defence with Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy and adding Bernardo Silva to an already bountiful front line.

But Guardiola warned that his side are still a work in progress.

"I am so happy with what the club have done," he said. "I don't know if we are able to compete to win titles because we are still in the process of growing up."

In addition, Guardiola said a "sporting decision" had been made to omit midfielder Yaya Toure from his squad.

The matter raises fresh questions over the 34-year-old's future. Guardiola said: "I spoke with him and he knows the reason why, but its between him and me. It's a sporting decision."

Toure was an unused substitute for City's first three games of the season before being left out of the squad for Saturday's defeat of Liverpool. It is now clear he was not injured.

Toure was left out by Guardiola at the start of last season, which sparked a row with his agent Dimitri Seluk. That, in turn, led to a longer period of isolation.

That issue was eventually resolved and Toure went on to regain a place and play an influential role.

Guardiola said: "Yaya was so important last season. But the decision was he didn't play the last game and today he was not in the squad. He knows the reason why. Hopefully he'll play soon, but it depends on him."

Guardiola will make a decision on the fitness of goalkeeper Ederson today. The Brazilian has been training wearing protective headgear after suffering facial injuries which required eight stitches in a nasty clash with Liverpool's Sadio Mane.

Another player who will not feature is captain Vincent Kompany, who continues to be troubled by the calf injury which affected him last weekend.

  • Feyenoord v Manchester City, Champions League Group F: De Kuip, Tonight, 7.45pm

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