May 12, 2017 / 4:43 PM / 3 months ago

Guardiola sees brighter Champions League future for City

Britain Soccer Football - Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Etihad Stadium - 6/5/17 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic

(Reuters) - Manchester City were not ready to compete with the continent's top clubs this year, manager Pep Guardiola said, but he was confident they would qualify again for the Champions League and perform better next season.

City, who host Leicester City on Saturday, lie fourth in the Premier League, a point and a place behind Liverpool with one game in hand.

Guardiola said he had enjoyed his first season in English football, despite failing to add to the 21 trophies he won in seven years while in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

"It's been intense, fun," Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

"I was expecting a fight until the end, especially in the Premier League, because in the Champions League we were not ready to compete with the best teams in Europe."

"I am optimistic that we can qualify for the Champions League next season and that we will be a better side."

City were knocked out of this year's competition in the last 16 by Monaco.

The Catalan said he had also made a decision regarding the seven City players out of contract at the end of the season, who include midfielder Yaya Toure and full backs Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna.

"It does not depend if they (out-of-contract players) play the last three games, the decision is already made. We are going to communicate after the season... Now is the time to be focused on playing and fighting."

City are undefeated in their last 10 games at the Etihad while ninth-placed Leicester have won just twice on the road this campaign.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by John Stonestreet

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