Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will use the pain of their Champions League final loss to Chelsea last season as motivation to end the long wait to be crowned European champions.
The Premier League winners start their 11th consecutive Champions League campaign against RB Leipzig on Wednesday, four months after losing 1-0 to the Blues in Porto.
City face a tough task, with big-spending Paris Saint-Germain also in Group A, but Guardiola is hoping his players rise to the challenge in Europe after proving themselves with three Premier League titles in the past four years.
“The players have feelings and soul and you know it hurts when you cannot achieve (what you want),” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“For them now it’s a new challenge to try. When these guys win three Premier Leagues in the last four years and every year we have the feeling that we can do better.
“We reached the final of the Champions League — yes — it’s a motor. They want it.”
Guardiola defended his players even though they fell at the last hurdle in May after reaching the final for the first time in the club’s history.
“People can say Man City was a failure but it was an incredible achievement last season, playing really well in many of the games and losing against a big contender,” he said.
The City boss has learned to live with the perception that he needs to win the Champions League to be judged a success at the club, despite winning eight major trophies in his first five seasons in charge.
Guardiola faced similar criticism over his record at Bayern Munich, where he won three Bundesliga titles in as many years but failed to progress past the Champions League semi-finals.
“I accept it,” said Guardiola, who lifted the Champions League trophy as Barcelona manager in 2009 and 2011.
“Every year is the same. If I win the Champions League I will be happy for the club. If I’m not able to do it, I’m not able. After, you can judge the success of my period.”
Spanish midfielder Rodrigo said the City team had no regrets over last season’s near-miss in Europe’s top club competition, adding the players were determined to go one better this season
“We have no regrets,” he said. “We will learn from this experience.
“The Champions League is decided by little differences. We have to build another building — a huge building — this season to achieve the Champions League.”
Guardiola’s options could be boosted by the return of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden on Wednesday, both were unused substitutes in City’s 1-0 win at Leicester on Saturday.