PEP GUARDIOLA OPTIMISTIC MAN CITY CAN ESCAPE BAN

Pep Guardiola, in his first press conference since being confronted with the possibility of a two-year Champions League ban for Manchester City over alleged breaches of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, said he was confident in his club’s ability to defend its position.

Speaking after Wednesday night’s 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham, courtesy of strikes by Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne, the City manager was adamant the matter was not finished and that he hoped they would be playing in Europe next year.

“The club believes it is unfair so we are going to appeal (to the Court of Arbitration for Sport) and we are going to wait,” Guardiola, whose side remain in second place, 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool (76), said.

“I trust 100 per cent what my club have said and what they have done, they have explained to me the reasons. We are going to fight, and we are optimistic that next season, if we qualify for the Champions League, we will be there.”

Guardiola is under contract until the end of next season and he confirmed he will not be walking away from the club before that point.

“Unless they sack me, which can happen, I will not leave,” the Spaniard said. “Why should I? I love this club, I like to be here, and after we have seen the sentence, we will focus on what we have to do.

“I want to stay to continue to help the club and maintain this level as long as possible. That’s not just because I have a contract, we want to fight to the end for the people who support this club.”

City are battling for trophies on three fronts – the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Guardiola insisted his players would not lose focus in light of the legal ramifications.

“We are professional on the pitch,” he added. “(We) play our games as best as possible.”

City chief executive Ferran Soriano claimed in a video interview that was posted on the club’s website the club had “irrefutable evidence” that Uefa’s charges were false.

While Guardiola admitted that evidence was not yet presented to him, he made it clear he trusted his directors implicitly.

“All I can say is that I support the club and trust what the directors have told me,” he said.

“You have to try and fight if you think you have a case and we are going to do it.”

He also responded to a taunt from Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who thanked Uefa for its work on FFP in the wake of its announcement regarding City.

“My advice would be don’t talk too loud, because everybody is involved in situations,” said Guardiola, a former Barca player and coach.

“Hopefully in the future, we can play against Barcelona in the Champions League.”

The case against City began after leaks of internal club e-mails in 2018 appeared to suggest the club misled Uefa’s financial controllers over the true sources of its revenue.

The most damaging allegation was that the team’s principal sponsorship with the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned airline, Etihad, was largely made up of cash infusions from City owner Sheikh Mansour’s investment fund.