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Ambitious Guardiola targeting Champions League after spending big

As Manchester City prepare to launch their 2017-18 assault on European football's top prize, manager Pep Guardiola will be well aware of the pressure facing him to make serious advances towards the pre-defined targets of the club's owners.

The Champions League represents not only the Holy Grail for those in charge of City's purse strings, but also a milestone achievement in the early part of the Catalan's football career.

Like Manuel Pellegrini before him, Guardiola will have had it made crystal clear that success in continental competition is the short term goal for a club that has won the FA Cup, the League Cup (twice) and the Premier League (twice) since the 2008 takeover.

In 1992 a 22-year-old Guardiola was celebrating being a Spanish champion, an Olympic gold medallist and holder of a Champions League medal after Barcelona had finally broken through their own painful drought with a Wembley win over Sampdoria.

Back in '92, the young Guardiola was seen as a prodigy of Spanish football, who needed beefing up. Slight and slender, he had been the focus of jokes from his colleagues at Barcelona that he wouldn't stay upright in a game of blow football.

Taking diet and training characteristically seriously, Guardiola put on the weight necessary to make him a first team prospect. With a late growth spurt taking him to 6-foot, he waited his chance.

Until he was called into the Spanish Olympic squad that year (1992), Guardiola had never represented his country at any level. His memorable year was rounded off nicely by then national coach Javier Clemente calling him into the full squad to make his debut in a World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland.

Guardiola can look back at a career as a player and a manager that has been filled with football success but last season's debut in Manchester brought his first as a manager that was not decorated with the capture of at least one trophy.

The money lavished on new players this summer speaks volumes for the coach's ambition. Champions League success ranks as highly as the Premier League and City's steady progress since 2008 means the club has become one of a small group that can realistically target the trophy.

As has been proved time and again, however, keeping momentum going on four fronts can be nigh on impossible. With the draw for the League Cup pitching City into their 10th consecutive away domestic cup game (this time at West Brom), the pressure is already mounting. Add to that the FA Cup in January and the 10-month slog that is the Premier League and chasing Champions League glory becomes more than just a tricky juggling act.

The last two Premier League winners have been clubs unburdened by European competition of any sort. The travelling, the heavy toll on limbs and minds and the fixture congestion must all be factored in when the going gets tough.

In bolstering his squad with so much talent and at the same time pruning away the deadwood, Guardiola is preparing this City side as best he can for the coming challenges. City's position in Pot 2 means an easy draw is possible, but yet another inclusion in a tough group almost certainly will happen.

From City's very earliest participation, dangerous groups have been visited upon them with monotonous regularity. Paired with Bayern, Napoli and Villarreal in their inaugural season (2011-12), it got even worse later with Ajax, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund (incredibly, all three champions of their respective domestic leagues).

With 2014-15 bringing Bayern again, Roma and CSKA Moscow, the following season topped that with Juventus, Borussia Monchengladbach and Sevilla. Last season yet again saw City in the tightest group, featuring Barcelona, Monchengladbach again and Scottish champions Celtic.

From this little lot, City's only peaceful group stage in six seasons occurred in 2013-14 when their opponents were Bayern (again), CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen. Even then, progressing for the first time to the knock-out stage, City were pitched against a Barcelona team, recently separated from Guardiola himself.

And so the bejewelled story of Guardiola and the Champions League comes full circle. Now, 25 years on from his glorious introduction, it is high time the Catalan added another personal milestone in his glittering relationship with the trophy.