Pep Guardiola said no team can take qualification for the Champions League knockout stages for granted after Manchester City secured a seeded place for the last-16.
City’s 0-0 draw at Porto means his side will top Group C with a game to spare after reaching the knockout draw for an eighth successive season, but with European giants Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Inter and last year’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig all facing an early exit, Guardiola says qualification is not as easy as people expect.
“This year especially in the Champions League it was tricky because if you lose or draw you have to go to the last game and there is always risk with the COVID situation,” he said.
“I know it's a disaster if we were not able to do it. Nowadays, [people think it is] so easy but we know in the other groups, some important incredible teams are finding it difficult to qualify.
“We know how important the groups are and how difficult it is to qualify so this competition is really difficult - if you sleep for one or two games everything is going to be complicated. Today is a day to be to be happy and now it's time to forget until February the Champions League and focus on the Premier League.”
City have one final group game against Marseille next Wednesday, which comes just three days before the Manchester Derby.
With nothing riding on the fixture, it gives Guardiola the opportunity to rest players for the trip to Old Trafford, but with close to a full squad fully fit, he says he will pick a strong side to beat the Ligue 1 side, who won their first game in 13 attempts against Olympiacos on Tuesday.
“All the players deserve to play,” he said. “We’re going to make a selection, it depends if they're tired, it depends on their behaviour on the pitch, in training sessions, in the locker room, in many situations. We will see.
“It is not just to prepare absolutely for United and Old Trafford, because against Marseille we're going to play to win. This is the way big teams create the mentality. It doesn't matter what competition you play, you have to try to do it and we did really well all game.”
City have kept four clean sheets in their last four Champions League and were unfortunate not to win in Portugal with Gabriel Jesus having a goal ruled out by VAR and Raheem Sterling, Ruben Dias and Eric Garcia all going close.
Goals have been City’s biggest problem this season, but despite another blank, the City boss was happy with how his side performed.
“We played exceptionally well,” Guardiola added. “Unfortunately we could not score but we came here to finish first. We are happy, I guess Porto (who also qualified) are as well.
“We played with huge personality, courage to go there and keep the ball. I know it is not easy. They played with eight players in the box, they were so strong, the full-backs are so strong but we were patient and we attacked and we created enough chances to win. This is the most important thing.”