Guardi­ola chal­lenges his play­ers to keep ti­tle race alive

Manch­ester City man­ager says his side must de­feat Liver­pool on Thurs­day

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - DAVID HYTNER

Pep Guardi­ola sug­gested Manch­ester City’s Premier League ti­tle de­fence would have been over if they had not beaten Southamp­ton, while ad­mit­ting it re­mains pre­car­i­ously bal­anced go­ing into Thurs­day’s show­down with Liver­pool at the Eti­had Sta­dium.

City won 3-1, thanks to goals from David Silva and Ser­gio Agüero, ei­ther side of a James Ward-Prowse own goal, to cut the gap on Liver­pool to seven points and im­prove on a run that had seen them lose three out of four games in the league.

Guardi­ola went on to de­scribe Liver­pool as the “best team in the Europe” at the mo­ment and among “the top four in the world.” The scene for Thurs­day has been set.

“Given the po­si­tion of Liver­pool, [if]we drop points, it’s over, it’s fin­ished – it would be al­most im­pos­si­ble,” Guardi­ola said. “Of course, I think they’re go­ing to drop points but not too many. And if we want to be there as far as pos­si­ble un­til the end, we have to win games.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we lost our pre­vi­ous two [against Crys­tal Palace and Le­ices­ter] and we have a ri­val who, at the mo­ment, is the best team in Europe or in the top four in the world and that is Liver­pool. That’s why next Thurs­day is a chal­lenge and we will try to win. If we can sus­tain our po­si­tion for as long as pos­si­ble, we can ar­rive at the end of the sea­son fight­ing for the ti­tle.

Mes­sages

“We are not here to send mes­sages to Liver­pool. Liver­pool know what they have to do and we know what we have to do. It’s first against sec­ond next Thurs­day. I know the dis­tance is big – seven points – es­pe­cially be­cause they are so solid and con­sis­tent. But it’s a game at home and hope­fully the ex­tra help from our peo­ple at the Ehi­tad can come.”

Guardi­ola dwelt on the small mar­gins. De­spite call­ing the tune for much of the first half, City might have given away a penalty at 1-1 when Ward-Prowse went down un­der Olek­sandr Zinchenko’s chal­lenge – al­beit an award would have been harsh. City scored al­most im­me­di­ately when Ward-Prowse de­flected Ra­heem Ster­ling’s cross past his own goal­keeper and Aguero quickly made it 3-1.

“The dif­fer­ence [to the Palace and Le­ices­ter games] is that Ra­heem scores at 1-1 [or] what hap­pens is the div­ing from Prowse is a penalty – you go in at half-time at 1-2 and it’s a dis­as­ter, af­ter we played 35 min­utes ex­cep­tion­ally,” Guardi­ola said.

Hats off

“What do you ex­pect when you are Crys­tal Palace, play­ing solid, you score an equaliser [for 1-1] and then [An­dros] Townsend, from his apart­ment, scores a sec­ond goal! Hats off to him. There’s noth­ing to add.

“To­day, we were more ag­gres­sive, clearer with the ball. Apart from 10, 15 min­utes, which al­ways hap­pens in the Premier League, there were many things I liked. We missed a lot of chances. The game was 6-1, 7-1. You have to score. Liver­pool is not go­ing to give us this amount of chances.”

Guardi­ola said Kevin De Bruyne had missed the game be­cause of a “mus­cu­lar prob­lem” and he did not know whether the mid­fielder would be fit to face Liver­pool, while he was re­lieved the fit-again Fer­nand­inho had avoided in­jury af­ter a dread­ful 85th-minute chal­lenge from Pierre-Emile Ho­jb­jerg, that re­sulted in the Southamp­ton cap­tain sent off.

“Def­i­nitely, def­i­nitely, it was a re­lief,” Guardi­ola said. “I know Pierre. We were to­gether at Bay­ern Mu­nich. He’s a fan­tas­tic guy. But it is what it is.” – Guardian

Manch­ester City’s Pep Guardi­ola: “We are not here to send mes­sages to Liver­pool”

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