Glasgow: Manchester City may be going for 11 wins in a row this season against a side beaten 7-0 in their opening Champions League match, but manager Pep Guardiola has insisted his on-form side can expect a battle at a passionate Celtic Park on Wednesday night.
Guardiola, who confirmed all of Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Fabian Delph and young goalkeeper Angus Gunn will miss the group stage match through injury versus Celtic, kick-off 10.45pm UAE time, believes the Scottish champions coached by Brendan Rodgers deserve respect despite their recent hammering by Barcelona.
The Spanish boss cautioned his stars to prepare for a game more like Celtic’s recent 5-1 thumping of Rangers at Celtic Park than their collapse in Catalonia.
“By winning we will make a big step forward but I know that it will not be easy,” Guardiola said. “I saw the game against Rangers here. They were so intensive – against Barcelona they were more passive.
“Against Rangers they were so aggressive. High pressing and so aggressive.
“That is the game we are going to expect tomorrow night.”
A plethora of big-name European stars have spoken of how much the feverish fans in Glasgow can help Celtic and Guardiola insists it is not just hot air.
“I know Celtic here is so strong,” he said. “I have spoken to my players and to my old players and they all said this is a special stadium and environment for the fans and the way they play. It’s a good chance for us to know our level away in Europe.”
Guardiola even declined to put the tag of favourites on his much-fancied side.
“From the first minute till the end of the game, we will see,” he said.
With a 4-0 victory against Borussia Monchengladbach already behind them in the Champions League, the City manager added: “The group is so tough so I’m glad with our result in Gladbach. A game against Celtic is a classic.”
Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov, who said he has been happy to fill in at centre-back as well as his traditional left-back role this season under Guardiola, insisted City may have to keep an eye on one of their own at Celtic Park – the on-loan winger Patrick Roberts.
“His strength is one v one,” said the Serbian, who may come up directly against Roberts.
“That’s his strength. He can hurt us (but) we will try our best.”
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers will also be up against someone he’s familiar with – in-form winger Raheem Sterling whom he coached when Liverpool manager.
“I’ve been so proud to watch him this season playing and to the level he’s been at,” said Rodgers, who confirmed Craig Gordon will start in goal for Celtic instead of Dorus de Vries.
“Absolutely delighted for him. He was a great boy to work with. To see him grow from that 17-year-old who made his first start for me against Manchester City, funnily enough, at Anfield, and from that to see his growth over the next three seasons or so was great.”
Sterling struggled initially after moving to City for 49 million pounds from Liverpool in the summer of July, 2015.
“You have to remember he went there at 20,” Rodgers. “For a season or so he drifted, maybe not so much to do with him. He needs to be in a structure, a clear way of working. And when he’s in that, he’s one of the world’s leading young talents. Super fast, dynamic, great on the one-v-one. He was absolutely brilliant for me. Hopefully he doesn’t play so well because he’s in great form! You can’t kick him because he’s so strong.
“He’s a big talent. I’m sure Pep knows he’s got a big talent.”