MANCHESTER: Manchester City’s recent history may be filled with domestic success, but manager Pep Guardiola said his side go into the Champions League knock-out phase as European novices.
City drew 1-1 at home to Celtic on Tuesday in their final group stage match, which maintained their unbeaten home record in the competition this year.
The big-spending Premier League club had already qualified for the knock out phase in second place in Group C behind Guardiola’s former team Barcelona.
“Considering that Man City has for the first time (last season) in their long history arrived in the semi-final, I’m so happy we’re there to compete against the best teams in the world,” Guardiola said.
“The group was really tough, really, really tough. The Champions League is not easy, especially for a team that’s not experienced in Europe,” he added.
“You have to win that respect through performance in the next years.”
With City already confirmed in second place in Group C and safely into the knockout stages, the match was an opportunity for Guardiola to ring the changes from the side that lost 3-1 at home to Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.
There was equally nothing riding on the outcome at the Etihad Stadium for bottom side Celtic, who produced a spirited display and were the better team for most of the first half.
Patrick Roberts, signed by City last year but on loan at Celtic, gave the Scottish champions a fourth-minute lead, but his excellent individual effort was swiftly cancelled out by Kelechi Iheanacho.
Guardiola refused to be drawn on who he would prefer to face in the last 16, and played down the potential for a clash against current European champions and his old rival Real Madrid.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said he was disappointed not to get all three points, and praised his team’s performance over the course of the six group games.
“We were competing against two of the superpowers of European football , we were unbeaten against Manchester City and arguably could have won both games,” Rodgers said.
“That sets the standard. If we qualify it’s safe to say we’ll be even better next year,” he said.