Pep sees old Barca charges as Euro favourites
AFTER Manchester City continued their seemingly unstoppable Premier League rampage yesterday, manager Pep Guardiola was left trying to calm the growing hype by suggesting his old Barcelona charges still remain Europe’s team to beat.
Even though City were wasteful and a mite distracted in their 1-0 win at Newcastle United, the fact that they still chalked up a record-extending 18th successive Premier League win with some comfort still told of their relentless excellence.
So, as Guardiola reflected on a 15-point lead at the top of the table, it was little surprise that he was asked afterwards whether City now had to be considered favourites for the Champions League as Europe’s mesmerising form side.
“Who does (Lionel) Messi play for?” was Guardiola’s response. “Barcelona,” came the reporter’s answer.
“So they’re the favourites,” shrugged the manager.
Guardiola should know. As the man who oversaw Messi’s flowering at the Nou Camp during a triumphant reign, he was once so enraptured on the touchline, he turned to a fan, saying: “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be coaching in La Segunda (the second division of La Liga).”
Guardiola also refused to be drawn into a war of words with Jose Mourinho after the United manager attempted to provoke Guardiola on Wednesday by pointing to their rivals’ huge spending power – claiming “City buy fullbacks for the price of strikers” and insisting that the £300 million (RM1.65b) he has spent since taking charge at Old Trafford 18 months ago as “not enough”.
When asked about the comments made by the Portuguese, Guardiola said: “I’m so delighted to be here to speak about what happened on the pitch.
“About what happened with my colleague speaking off the pitch in the press conference, I’m not the right guy. You want to talk about what happened today on the pitch, I will answer.”
City remain on course to win the title in record time but Guardiola will await medical updates on Vincent Kompany, after the injury-prone skipper limped off with a recurrence of a long-term calf problem.
City face a minimum of eight games in 34 days in a hectic start to the New Year, and Guardiola added: “Of course we are happy to break records but when we prepare for games we don’t speak about them. Until now, we have found a way to win.
“I saw the schedule in my office the other day and I wanted to escape, because it’s terrible. The games we are going to play, it’s tough.
“We’ve played all these games in December then in January you have the Carabao Cup and FA Cup and then the return of the Champions League in February.
“It will be tough but it will also be tough for our opponents.” – Reuters/AFP