Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola feels his team are not yet ready to conquer Europe, despite taking control of their last 16 tie with Schalke.
The Premier League champions secured a hard-fought 3-2 win in Germany on Wednesday evening, thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.
However, Schalke provided Guardiola’s men with a stern test, taking a 2-1 lead into half time and matching their opponents for intensity and aggression over the course of the 90 minutes, despite a clear gap in overall quality between the two sides.
Aymeric Laporte was also sent off late on and he will now be unavailable for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 12.
Speaking after the match Guardiola insisted that City are still a long way off being real contenders for the Champions League trophy, as he bemoaned a below-par performance from his side.
“The result is incredible, three goals away, but we gave away the goals and the red card,” the Spanish boss began, as per Sky Sports.
“In this level, we don’t have a chance. Still, we are not ready to fight for the Champions League. After the red card maybe if they’d pushed more and scored a third or fourth then maybe we’re out.
FULL-TIME | A bonkers game! ?
We can only guess what the second leg will bring after that!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 20, 2019
“It is not over. Hopefully, our fans can help us in the second leg and hopefully, we can improve for the future. We played good, but we lost some easy balls that we’re not allowed to do in the competition.”
City are the bookie’s favourites to win the competition this year, but should they successfully qualify for the quarterfinals next month, tougher tests against Europe’s elite sides remain.
Guardiola must now turn his attention to a Carabao Cup final on Sunday, which will see Chelsea try to dethrone the holders at Wembley, just two weeks after City thrashed Maurizio Sarri’s team 6-0 at the Etihad.
An unprecedented quadruple is still within City’s sights and despite Guardiola’s shocking Champions League admission, they are quite capable of achieving the impossible with the number of world-class players in the squad at his disposal.