BRIGHTON, UK: Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City deserve their place in the Champions League next season as the club wait to find out whether their two-season ban against playing in European competitions will be overturned.
City were handed the two-season sanction by UEFA in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules, but appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which will deliver its verdict on Monday.
On the field, City ensured they will finish in the Premier League’s top four with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.
“Today we achieved one incredible challenge, which is qualification for the Champions League mathematically,” said Guardiola.
“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday UEFA can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to.”
For the fourth time in their last six league games, City scored four or more goals in another performance that belied the 21-point gap between them and champions Liverpool.
However, they could still end the season with a treble of trophies as they face Arsenal in the semifinals of the FA Cup next weekend before recommencing their Champions League campaign in August.
“I have the feeling all the team is ready to play good for what we have ahead of us,” added Guardiola.
“The levels we’ve had since the restart, even the games we lost, have been really good.”
Too often City have been found wanting for failing to take their chances and punished for defensive lapses at the other end.
However, there was never any chance of Brighton adding to their nine league defeats this season once Sterling curled home his 25th goal of the season with unerring accuracy into the far corner.
“I think the problem we’ve had this season is we’ve created a lot of chances and not taken them whereas last season and the season before we’d finish them and bury games early on,” said Sterling.
“This season we haven’t had that slight bit of luck.”
Gabriel Jesus could have the responsibility of leading the line when City’s bid to win the Champions League for the first time gets back underway with Sergio Aguero facing a race against time to be fit after knee surgery.
The Brazilian has not always been the most prolific finisher, but showed striker’s instincts to tap Rodrigo’s flick-on for a corner to make it 2-0 just before half-time with his 20th goal of the season.
Sterling notched his second of the night in unusual fashion by crashing home a header from Mahrez’s teasing cross.
Brighton did themselves no favors for the fourth as Mat Ryan spiled a Bernardo Silva shot he should have held and Jesus teed up the Portuguese midfielder to roll into an unguarded net at the second attempt..
Sterling was left on as Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus made way to give him the chance of securing a hat-trick and he did so with a hint of fortune as the ball ricocheted off his head after he had fallen to the floor inside the area and Dan Burn failed to clear the ball off the line.
Brighton are still not mathematically safe as they remain eight points above the relegation zone, but Graham Potter’s men should already have enough points on the board as third-bottom Bournemouth face the daunting task of being City’s next opponents on Wednesday.
“We were well beaten by the better team,” admitted Potter.
“They beat Liverpool 4-0 at the Etihad so better teams than us will find it dificult.”
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