Guardiola talks down prospect of title party against United

14Mar 2018
The Guardian
Guardiola talks down prospect of title party against United

MANCHESTER City have the tantalising prospect of claiming the Premier League crown with a home win over rivals Manchester United but, while the fans would relish such a unique moment, Pep Guardiola wants to keep such a scenario out of his mind.

City, who have a 16-point lead over their second-placed local foes with eight games remaining, first need to beat Everton at Goodison Park on March 31 if they are to head into the Manchester derby on April 7 with the title within reach.

The team’s supporters certainly had the idea of rubbing salt into United’s wounds with a party at The Etihad as they sang several songs about arch-rivals United and their manager Jose Mourinho during Monday’s 2-0 win at Stoke City.

But Guardiola was quick to emphasise that the derby comes between the two legs of the Champions League quarter-finals against an opponent to be decided in Friday’s draw, with United looking to book their place in the last eight on Tuesday.

“We want to be (Premier League) champions... but, believe me, before and after United we have (the Champions League) quarter-finals and at that moment it is the most important thing, focusing on the quarter-finals,” said Guardiola

“I understand for the fans, OK, but the important thing is to be champions. When, where, it doesn’t matter,” he said referring to their impending English league title success.

Skipper Vincent Kompany, who won the Premier League with City in 2012 and 2014, certainly understands the emotion that would be generated by winning the title by beating United.

“Everybody on the‘Blue’ side of Manchester knows it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

“We have one more game before United and then we’ll see. (But) steady, it won’t be handed to us.

“It’s that time of year - every single win brings you one step closer to your goal,” he added.

City left for the airport after the Stoke game with a break in the club’s owner’s homeland awaiting them.

“Now we have three weeks off, we go to Abu Dhabi and will come back strong. It is a tough winter for everybody so we are off straight away and we look forward to the weather,” said Guardiola, noting the forecast for Manchester next week of rain.

“To be champions is tough, it’s complicated. Our club does not have a history of a lot of titles. As soon as possible will be better but now we can be relaxed, the players go away with their international teams. It doesn’t matter where we win it”.

Meanwhile, Stoke City cannot let Monday’s 2-0 Premier League defeat by runaway leaders Manchester City define their season and must seek a response when they play Everton this weekend, manager Paul Lambert has said.

Manchester City midfielder David Silva scored both goals in a comfortable win to leave relegation-threatened Stoke facing a daunting task with eight games remaining in the season but Lambert said his team could not be written off just yet.

“This game is not going to define our season, not at all - there are positives to be taken from this game for sure,” Lambert told the club’s website (www.stokecityfc.com).

Struggling Stoke sit second from bottom in the league with 27 points after six victories, nine draws and 15 defeats. They host ninth-placed Everton on Saturday.

“We’re still well in the mix, there are plenty of points to be played for and we’ll be ready to go again on Saturday against Everton,” he said.

Pep Guardiola’s City, who prevailed 7-2 when the two teams met at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season, were unable to convert a number of chances on Monday.

“They never really managed to calve us open tonight, like they have with other teams, we made a couple of wrong decisions which helped them with their goals, but all in all I thought we were strong and resolute,” Lambert added.

REUTERS