Guardiola relieved to ‘focus finally on one competition’

Date published: Thursday 24th November 2016 8:42

Pep Guardiola: Remonstrates with fourth official

Pep Guardiola: Remonstrates with fourth official

Pep Guardiola immediately turned his thoughts to the Premier League after David Silva’s goal sent his Manchester City side into the Champions League last 16.

Silva struck the 45th-minute equaliser as City claimed a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach to secure second place in Group C and progress to the knockout stages with a game to spare.

City were some way short of the standard that saw them topple Barcelona earlier this month and the match was a stop-start affair with both sides having a man sent off.

But boss Guardiola was pleased enough to get the job done and hopes the qualification can help domestic form.

He said: “We have qualified with one game left and it’s a big compliment for the team, for the whole stage. In general we made a good performance.

“We have qualification in the pocket until February, so now we can focus finally on one competition, the Premier League, and we can be so satisfied.”

With Barcelona beating Celtic in Glasgow, City cannot finish top of the group. The other positions are also finalised with Monchengladbach going through to the Europa League as the third-placed team and Celtic ending in last place.

That renders City’s final group game against the Scottish champions next month a dead rubber.

Guardiola said: “Of course we are going to prioritise our games in the Premier League now.

“The most difficult part of our job is to leave players out of the squad, because they deserve to play. Of course we are going to play players that normally don’t play in the last game.

“But a lot of things can happen. We have to play Burnley and Chelsea, and after that we are going to focus on Celtic.”

City established early control against Monchengladbach but failed to make the most of considerable possession and looked vulnerable to the counter-attack.

They fell behind when Raffael finished off a quick break midway through the first half.

That prompted a change from a three-man defence to a back four with Jesus Navas moving to right-back.

City improved as a result and levelled when Silva turned home a Kevin De Bruyne cross from close range.

The second half failed to ignite after Monchengladbach captain Lars Stindl and City midfielder Fernandinho were both dismissed for second bookable offences.

Guardiola said: “After Borussia’s goal we lost control of the game. It was not in our hands and it changed a little bit.

“But we scored a goal and we were so happy. In the second half the football was so much better but the decision to send off Fernandinho changed the situation. The result was good for both teams.”

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