Man City face se­ries of ‘fi­nals’, says Guardi­ola

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Manch­ester City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola be­lieves that ev­ery game in the sec­ond half of the sea­son will be like a cup fi­nal for his ti­tle hope­fuls. An im­pres­sive and hard-earned 3-0 win at Hull kept pace with lead­ers Chelsea af­ter Antonio Conte’s side beat Bournemouth ear­lier on Mon­day.

The Blues had opened up a 10-point gap over Guardi­ola’s team for whom de­feat at Hull would have spelled dis­as­ter. The Cata­lan ad­mit­ted that the pres­sure was on fol­low­ing that re­sult al­tough a Yaya Toure penalty, a tap-in from sub­sti­tute Kelechi Iheana­cho and an own goal from Cur­tis Davies en­sured he even­tu­ally en­joyed his first Box­ing Day in English foot­ball with a com­fort­able win.

But he also con­ceded that such pres­sure will be rou­tine for his side in the new year, es­pe­cially with ti­tle ri­vals Chelsea and Liver­pool not en­cum­bered by hav­ing to play in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion.

“Some­times you play be­fore, some­times you play later,” said Guardi­ola. “But it doesn’t mat­ter whether you are seven points or 10 points be­hind when one team has won 12 in a row. “We have one game to fin­ish the first half of the sea­son and then the sec­ond starts and it’s like a fi­nal for us if we want to be there un­til the end of the sea­son.

“Liver­pool went so close one year be­cause they had one game a week and last year Le­ices­ter it hap­pened the same. This time Chelsea and Liver­pool are the ones.

“We have played seven more games than them and im­por­tant ones like the Cham­pi­ons League. That is why it will be tough, it will be hard but we have to do ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing to be there.

“Af­ter that, foot­ball is un­pre­dictable. Some­times you believe some­thing is done and it is not done. “What we have to do is win ev­ery game and play like this last one. We’re go­ing to try and, af­ter that, we will an­a­lyse whether it has been enough or not enough. But that’s the goal.”

OP­TI­MISM OVER STONES

Guardi­ola had fur­ther good news when he learned that his Eng­land de­fender John Stones will not face a long spell on the side­lines fol­low­ing in­jury. Re­called af­ter being dropped for City’s last two games, Stones lasted less than 20 min­utes be­fore suf­fer­ing a knee in­jury but one which should not see him side­lined for long.

“He had a huge kick on his knee and couldn’t run,” ex­plained Guardi­ola. “When you look at his knee, it is badly swollen but it is just a kick, not some­thing se­ri­ous like lig­a­ments.” Even with­out Stones, City kept a clean sheet for just the sec­ond time in nine away league games so far this sea­son, a de­cent achieve­ment given a strong, phys­i­cal and di­rect ap­proach from Hull.

“Like al­ways,” smiled Guardi­ola when asked about the di­rect style his team faced. “Wat­ford play like this, Arse­nal play like this, with Giroud, West Brom, all the teams play di­rect. “But I’m not wor­ried about that long ball. I’m wor­ried about the sec­ond one, the third one, some­times the fourth one. That’s the im­por­tant thing.”

Hull’s hopes of be­com­ing the fourth team in a quar­ter of a cen­tury of Premier League foot­ball to sur­vive af­ter being bot­tom at Christ­mas look ever dis­tant al­though man­ager Mike Phe­lan could be jus­ti­fi­ably proud of their lat­est ef­fort.

“I thought to take on City the way we did was the right thing to do and there was a bit of an­guish and frus­tra­tion from their dugout at times,” he said.

“But that first goal is mas­sive. We tried to have a go af­ter that but it is just a case of can we man­age the game better. We need to learn from that as we are on the end of an­other de­feat - a harsh de­feat be­cause I don’t think it was a 3-0 game.” — AFP

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