PEP FIGHTS ON

Guardi­ola re­fuses to con­cede league ti­tle af­ter City’s Stoke stut­ter

New Straits Times - - Sport -

PEP Guardi­ola has re­fused to con­cede the Premier League ti­tle to Chelsea de­spite a dis­ap­point­ing 0-0 home draw with Stoke City which left An­to­nio Conte’s league lead­ers with a 10point lead at the top of the ta­ble.

The Manch­ester City man­ager gam­bled by rest­ing key play­ers John Stones, David Silva and Ra­heem Ster­ling ahead of this week­end’s FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal at Mid­dles­brough and next week’s Cham­pi­ons League last 16 sec­ond leg trip to Monaco.

The tac­tic back­fired with City only look­ing like break­ing down Stoke af­ter Guardi­ola threw on Span­ish in­ter­na­tional Silva as a sub­sti­tute with just un­der an hour gone.

“I have said be­fore, we take it game by game,” said Guardi­ola of the lead held by

Chelsea.

“The lead is

10 points and we now have one less game.

“We’re go­ing to see what hap­pens in the next game and then take it game by game. When a gap is like this, you have to fo­cus like that; not on big tar­gets.”

Guardi­ola in­sisted that he had no re­grets over his gam­ble to rest key play­ers and, with City look­ing im­pres­sive in the FA Cup and Cham­pi­ons League, there was logic be­hind his se­lec­tion.

“The pri­or­ity is the next game,” said Guardi­ola. “And we play for the next game.

“The ro­ta­tions are good when you have suc­cess­ful re­sults and they are not bril­liant when you miss out.

“We only have two days now and we have another (FA Cup) game — and another one away be­cause we have never played at home in the cup this sea­son — and we have to use all the play­ers.

“I would like to use more play­ers — like Fabian Delph and others. And in the last game I didn’t play Kevin De Bruyne from the be­gin­ning so we have to use all the squad in this cal­en­dar with a lot of games. “Af­ter another three or four days we travel to France for Monaco, then another three or four days we have Liver­pool.

“When you have one game a week you can play only 11 play­ers no prob­lems. If not, you have to make a ro­ta­tion and it makes it so dif­fi­cult.”

Stoke’s for­mer Manch­ester City man­ager Mark Hughes was pleased with his team’s re­sponse fol­low­ing their last away out­ing, a dis­as­trous 4-0 de­feat at Tot­ten­ham, but ad­mit­ted he was sur­prised, and re­lieved, when he dis­cov­ered Silva was not start­ing for the home side.

“You saw his in­flu­ence when he came on,” said Hughes. “If I’m hon­est, I was pleased he wasn’t start­ing be­cause he does give them an ex­tra el­e­ment to their play.

“His calm­ness in pos­ses­sion, his abil­ity to see the cor­rect pass at the right time is out­stand­ing. He’s a world-class player so we weren’t too up­set when he wasn’t in the start­ing line-up and were a bit more anx­ious when he came on.”

REUTERS PIC

Manch­ester City’s David Silva (right) is tack­led by Stoke’s Ge­off Cameron in their Premier League match on Wed­nes­day.

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