Pep Guardiola has pinpointed Manchester City’s toughest Champions League group game – and it isn’t his reunion with Lionel Messi when the Blues face Paris Saint-Germain.
The Blues boss is set to get Kevin De Bruyne back for their first game in this year’s competition, with RB Leipzig visiting the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
The Belgium midfielder was on the bench for the 1-0 win at Leicester on Saturday, and is expected to be fit enough to start as the European campaign gets underway.
With fans salivating over the prospect of Guardiola facing Messi again, and a clash between two of the tournament favourites, Guardiola warned his players that their entire focus has to be on Leipzig.
“The most difficult game we have in the group will be the first against Leipzig,” he said. “This is the most important game of the group stage.
“I have not thought one second about PSG. The teams we are going to face are so, so difficult.”
With two teams going through, Guardiola – as well as ensuring there are no distractions – has also identified the Bundesliga side as the main threat to finishing in the top two places, and so qualifying for the knockout phase.
Leipzig have had a torrid start to their domestic season, losing three of the first four, including a 4-1 home hammering by Bayern Munich yesterday.
But Guardiola says no-one should be fooled by their bad start: “Leipzig grew a lot in the last years from not being a contender with Bayern Munich, who were unstoppable, to being there all the time second-third, second-third, fighting with Dortmund.
“I know the rhythm and the quality, the pace they have. It will be a good test but it is important to arrive in the test the way we played against Leicester.”
City should have De Bruyne back – he and Phil Foden both stayed on the bench as they fought out a tense encounter at the King Power Stadium.
When asked whether De Bruyne is ready to return, Guardiola said: “We will see. He made really good training sessions this week and when he came back he did really well. Step by step.
“We have a deep squad. Kevin was there, Phil was there, Riyad (Mahrez) was there, John (Stones) was there.
“In the last two games, against Norwich and Arsenal, the guys who played were amazing and at a very high level and they deserved to still play. The guys who didn’t play at Leciester have to be ready.
“This is the only reason we had success in previous seasons, everyone made contributions and the guys who played well have more options to play in the next one.
“The guys who don’t play well have more problems. Now the guys have to wait for their moment and when it comes to show their quality.”