x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bayern’s Guardiola a big fan of Pellegrini

European champions visit Premier League club for their Uefa Champions League Group D clash.

Manuel Pellegrini was manager of three Primera Liga clubs when coming up against Pep Guardiola, then in charge of Barcelona. Jon Super / AP Photo
Manuel Pellegrini was manager of three Primera Liga clubs when coming up against Pep Guardiola, then in charge of Barcelona. Jon Super / AP Photo

Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini face Bayern Munich, the European champions, on Wednesday night with a ringing endorsement from the man plotting their downfall, Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola, who took charge of the German giants in the summer, is hugely impressed by the progress made by City in recent years and is a big fan of Pellegrini, their manager.

City are trying to make an impression in the Champions League this season after two previous failures but face a stern test of their credentials against Bayern in a Group D clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola, who won the competition twice in charge of Barcelona, is convinced City will soon make their mark.

The Catalan, himself linked with City before taking over in Munich, said: “Manchester City are one of the biggest clubs in Europe. I think they have made big steps forward.

“My impression is if they qualify, Manchester City will be one of the toughest teams in the next round.

“The same happened with Borussia Dortmund last season.

“They qualified for the next round for the first time and went on to the final.

“I think the same can happen for Manchester City. I don’t know if I’m right but I have this feeling.”

Pellegrini came up against Guardiola’s Barcelona teams during his time at Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga but never once got the better of him in eight encounters.

Guardiola is not reading too much into that ahead of what he believes will be a tough game.

“I am really impressed with Manuel because I would like to be like him,” the 42 year old said.

“No matter which club or team he is training, his teams play in the same way.

“If I beat them all the time it was because I was training one of the best teams in the world, one of the best teams in the history of Barcelona.”

Pellegrini also played down the relevance of his personal record against Guardiola, insisting the match between the teams expected to top the group is not about the managers.

The Chilean said: “It’s always about the players. I don’t play against Pep Guardiola. It is Bayern against Manchester City.

“The key is always the performance of the important players. They must appear in important games and normally it’s the key that makes the difference.”

David Silva, the City playmaker, is back in contention after five games out with a thigh strain and Sergio Aguero, the striker, returns after missing Saturday’s loss at Aston Villa after a minor knock.

City are looking to follow up their impressive opening to the campaign when they beat Czech side Viktoria Plzen 3-0 a fortnight ago.

“We have started this season in the Champions League very well and that’s important for the team and the confidence,” said Edin Dzeko, the striker.

“Now [we are] at home against the big rival in the group and we want to beat them and stay in the first position.”