Decision day

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 13 Jul 2020

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 today.

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.

"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 Uefa can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to."

The stakes could not be higher for the club, who have always strongly denied any wrongdoing over allegations they deliberately inflated the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play regulations between 2012 and 2016.

Since Sheikh Mansour's takeover 12 years ago, City's fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies. Yet the prize that has eluded them is the one the Abu Dhabi project most desires - the Champions League.

No matter the outcome today, City will have the chance to do so in August as they resume their Champions League campaign this season with a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last-16 tie.

That could be the last chance for some of City's biggest names to win the Champions League for the club as a two-year ban would have severe consequences for the club's finances. "I have the feeling all the team is ready to play good for what we have ahead of us," Guardiola said. "The levels we've had since the restart have been really good."

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