CRU­CIAL

Guardi­ola says turn­ing Eti­had into a fortress will win them sil­ver­ware

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MANCH­ESTER

PEP Guardi­ola said Manch­ester City’s home form must im­prove next sea­son if they are to chal­lenge for hon­ours af­ter they beat West Bromwich Al­bion in their last home game.

Guardi­ola’s first sea­son in English foot­ball will end at Wat­ford on Sun­day with the Cata­lan fail­ing to win sil­ver­ware for the first time in his stel­lar man­age­rial ca­reer.

But Tues­day’s 3-1 vic­tory over West Brom should be enough to guar­an­tee a top-four fin­ish — and a place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League — while a win at Wat­ford will as­sure City of ad­vanc­ing di­rectly to the com­pe­ti­tion proper.

“I will not say fourth po­si­tion is done, but Arse­nal have to win by five or six against Ever­ton and my good friend Ron­ald Koe­man,” City man­ager Guardi­ola told re­porters at the Eti­had Sta­dium.

“We are there and we are go­ing to travel to Lon­don to try and fin­ish third and go di­rect to the Cham­pi­ons League. I’m happy it’s in our hands to fin­ish third.

“This club had not played in Europe for 30 years. Now we are there ev­ery year, but we have to try and be bet­ter next sea­son.”

How­ever, City will need to im­prove their form at the Eti­had, where de­spite end­ing the sea­son with three straight vic­to­ries, they have col­lected just 11 wins from 19 games.

“Our home sea­son was not good,” said Guardi­ola. “We fin­ished the last three games with good per­for­mances, but it was not good. That was the rea­son we didn’t fight (for the ti­tle) un­til the end of the sea­son. We lost a lot of points, but this was a per­fect night, espe­cially for Pablo.”

He was re­fer­ring to de­fender Pablo Za­baleta, who played his last home game for the club prior to leav­ing as a free agent.

“It was an emo­tional night, for his fam­ily, for the peo­ple in the crowd,” said Guardi­ola. “I saw many peo­ple cry­ing and they are re­al­is­ing the im­pact Pablo had on the club.”

Sup­ported by his wife, Chris­tel, and son, Asier, Za­baleta was given an emo­tional farewell by team­mates and City sup­port­ers af­ter the game, with all keen to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his nine event­ful years as a City player.

“As a foot­ball player and as a foot­ball fan it was a dream to come to the Premier League,” Za­baleta said in an on-pitch ad­dress to fans.

“I said to my girl­friend, now my wife, ‘Let me go to Manch­ester. I will en­joy it. It will be only for three or four years.’ So I’ll have to say sorry — it’s been nine years!”

First-half goals from Gabriel Je­sus and Kevin De Bruyne put City in con­trol be­fore Yaya Toure added a third and Hal Rob­sonKanu claimed West Brom’s late con­so­la­tion.

West Brom slipped a place to ninth with­out any of their ri­vals play­ing, the re­sult of a run that has seen them col­lect just two points from the last avail­able 24. AFP

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