Pep Guardiola has claimed Manchester City have “five finals” ahead of them in the group stages of the Uefa Champions League, starting with tonight’s clash with Hoffenheim.
The Premier League champions are under early pressure after they lost their opening match in Group F to Lyon 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in September.
Guardiola acknowledged in a news conference yesterday that his side do not have much margin for error in their remaining five group matches if they want to ensure they qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament.
He said: “We have five finals to qualify. We don’t have time to lose a lot of games. Tomorrow is the first one.
“It is a top-level competition and every team is so good.”
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Vincent Kompany, City’s captain, echoed his manager’s view and said that while he and the club still have big ambitions to win the competition, they were not looking beyond the trip to Germany to kick start their challenge to make it to the last 16.
“I would love to win a European trophy with City but it is a very tough competition,” said the Belgian. “We lost to Lyon. We have to worry about Hoffenheim first.”
“It is the last step the club hasn’t achieved yet and the club is always trying to progress. We are going to try our best.”
City have had a boost with the news that Kompany’s Belgian compatriot Kevin De Bruyne has returned to training with his teammates.
The midfielder has been out since August with a knee ligament injury, and had been expected to be out for as long as three monents.
Guardiola said: “Today was his first training session back with the team so we will see when he’s ready to play.”
Striker Sergio Aguero is also in contention to feature against Hoffenheim despite suffering from a foot injury that led to him being substituted, having scored, in the 2-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday in the league.
“He is here because the doctor says he is able to play,” said Guardiola. Tomorrow we will decide if he or Gabriel (Jesus) plays.”