Pep Guardiola says the dressing room spirit at Manchester City is the best he has known at the club.
The City manager has often praised his side’s unity during his six years at the Etihad Stadium, a period in which they won eight major trophies.
Yet as they target even more silverware this season, Guardiola feels the rapport between his players and staff has reached new levels.
“The harmony in this team at the moment is exceptional,” said Guardiola, whose side resumed their last Champions League challenge at Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday.
“We know each other well, we accept a lot of things for all of us and my harmony and respect with them is much better, (after) six seasons.
“We know each other perfectly and we accept the good and the bad things, we want to fight and be part of it.”
When asked if Harmony was the best he’s had since taking over at City, Guardiola said in a press conference: “Yes. That’s the main focus for me, have harmony in the team and fight to maintain it as high as possible.The players will do the rest.
“What they have between them is the most important thing, their respect for each other.
“In football, the hardest thing is that every day they are ‘enemies’, they fight for a position in the team. They are enemies in a nice sense.
“But then they have to be brothers at the weekend, and that mix is not easy to manage because everyone wants to play. So if they respect each other, the rest is easy.
City are favorites to win their fourth Premier League title in five seasons after opening a nine-point lead at the top, but the feeling remains that European success is what they really dream of.
For all their brilliance domestically, the Champions League trophy continues to elude them, with last season’s runners-up finishing their best effort.
Guardiola insists being continually asked about it doesn’t bother him.
“You can ask whatever you want, as many times as you want,” the Spaniard said during a press conference to preview the first leg of the Round of 16 at Jose Alvalade Stadium.
“Does it bother me? No, because that means we are here in the Champions League.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure to travel to Portugal to try and compete well and try to win the game.”
On Tuesday, City return to the scene of their disappointing exit to Lyon in their revamped 2020 quarter-final.
Guardiola expects another tough game this time against the Portuguese champions.
“Last season they beat Porto and Benfica because they are a very good team and they went through a group with Ajax and Dortmund,” he said. “I was really impressed with their quality.”
The game will likely see them come up against their own right-back Pedro Porro, who is currently on loan at Sporting.
Spain international Porro, 22, impressed during his two years at Sporting but the player said last year he was not sure Guardiola even knew who he was.
Guardiola said: “I know him perfectly but we have maybe 250 players on loan! I can’t talk to all of them but I’m glad it’s going well.