Pep Guardiola takes his swaggering Manchester City side to the home of Italian league leaders Napoli on Wednesday knowing a win will guarantee qualification for the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare.
City, unbeaten this season, notched an eighth straight Premier League win on Saturday that keeps them five points clear of nearest challengers Manchester United.
Guardiola’s free-scoring side have won 13 games in a row in all competitions and are unbeaten in their past 21 outings — two new club records.
They are riding high at the top of Champions League Group F with three wins from three, knowing victory against Napoli would see them qualify for the knockout round.
But Guardiola remains wary of the Neapolitans — third in the group behind City and Shakhtar Donetsk — with Belgian Dries Mertens catching the eye up front this season.
“We need one more win to qualify but we are going to the team that are leading Serie A and everybody knows the type of football they play in their own stadium so it’s going to be very difficult,” said the City boss.
“But it’s a great opportunity for us to book our place and we’re going to try our best to do it.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp suggested City’s Premier League dominance is such that they could be champions by January, a suggestion Guardiola has brushed aside.
“Definitely,” he said when asked if it was unrealistic. “You are English — from a long time ago, did you see a champion in January? Me neither.”
The Spaniard — who campaigned for independence for his native Catalonia — is targeting a third Champions League trophy wins in 2009 and 2011 at the helm of Barcelona. He failed to progress beyond the semi-finals during his three-year spell at Bayern Munich.
But Maurizio Sarri’s side have been similarly dominant in Italy this season, where they are unbeaten in 11 league games — including 10 wins — as they chase a first Serie A title since the golden days of Diego Maradona in 1990.