Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City cannot be expected to compete on equal terms with Barcelona due to the clubs’ respective history in the Champions League ahead of their showdown clash on Wednesday.
Guardiola won the Champions League twice in four glorious years as Barca coach between 2008 and 2012 and returns to the Camp Nou for the second time as a visiting boss just two months into his reign at City.
“Manchester City was 35 years without competing in Europe. That is a long time,” Guardiola said on Tuesday.
City reached the last four for the first time in their history last season under Manuel Pellegrini, but lost all four meetings against Barcelona on the only other occasions they’ve even reached the knockout phase in the previous two seasons.
“You are an important team in Europe when you are in Europe many times. That is the target for Manchester City in the next five, six, seven years, to be competing every year.”
Guardiola admitted he felt emotional to return to the club he also captained for the majority of his playing career in the nineties.
“This stadium is part of my life. I grew up here,” he added.
“I have a lot of passion for the spectators, and we had an unbelievable generation of players.
“It was a part of my life, but I closed the chapter and (as Bayern Munich coach) in Munich I opened a new one and now in Manchester a new one again.”
City head to Barcelona on the back of a three-game winless streak after Guardiola won his first 10 games in charge.
And the Catalan coach believes he will learn much from how prepared his side are to compete in Europe by facing the best team in the world in his opinion.
“It is a good test for us to know our level against one of the best teams. What I want is the points to be able to go through to the next round and to be ourselves,” he continued.
“I need to know as soon as possible where is my team and tomorrow we will see if we have the level (to compete).”
City will be faced with a fit-again Lionel Messi after he netted on his return from a groin injury against Deportivo la Coruna at the weekend.
“I am happy he is back. It is always a joy to watch him play,” insisted Guardiola, despite the damage the Argentine could wreak upon the City defence.
“I don’t know what instructions I can give the defenders so stop his talent.”
And Guardiola spurned City fans’ faint hopes that he could tempt Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.
“I didn’t phone Messi this summer,” Guardiola said, swatting away speculation he had tried to lure a series of high-profile players away from the Camp Nou.
“Messi is the one that will decide when and if he leaves Barca.”