Sport Soccer

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Pep Guardiola admits title race could be over for Manchester City

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City suffered a heavy defeat at Everton
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City suffered a heavy defeat at Everton

Pep Guardiola accepts the title could be out of reach after his Manchester City side crashed to a 4-0 defeat at Everton.

City were left 10 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea after capitulating alarmingly in the latter stages at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The loss was the heaviest suffered by former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola in domestic football in his managerial career, and a league crown in his first year at City could be beyond him.

Asked if the gap to the top was now too great, Guardiola said: "By the first one? Yes. Ten points is a lot of points. The second one is three points. We have to see.

"I spoke with my players in the last three weeks or more, (and said), 'Forget about the table, focus on the next game and try to do our best to win'.

"After that, at the end of the season, we our going to evaluate our level and how our performance was, how the coach was, how the players were. After that we are going to decide."

Guardiola, whose side have now lost five Premier League games this season, was also asked in his post-match press conference if he was facing the toughest challenge of his career.

He denied that but acknowledged his past achievements have led to extremely high expectations.

The Spaniard said: "No. I would say the exceptional situation was in the past. When you have eight years as a coach and you win seven titles and you're always winning - that is the exceptional situation.

"I have to look for the best solution to take the players to winning games again."

Guardiola insisted he was enjoying the job.

"I'm so happy in Manchester," he said. "Of course, I prefer to win than to lose but I'm so happy.

"The way I will try to do it, until my last day, is to find the best way possible to achieve what I think is the best way to play."

City were competitive throughout the first half but fell behind to a 34th-minute Romelu Lukaku strike. Everton doubled their lead early in the second half through Kevin Mirallas and then wrapped up victory with late efforts from teenagers Tom Davies and debutant substitute Ademola Lookman.

Guardiola said: "In the first half, in my view, we were exceptional. We created enough chances to score.

"But we lost another (goal) in circumstances I cannot control. It has happened a lot of times. The opponent scores the first time and we miss a lot.

"In the second half they arrived a second time and scored a second goal and it's tough mentally for everybody, especially for the players."

Everton boss Ronald Koeman hailed the performance from his side after they bounced back in spectacular fashion from their FA Cup loss to Leicester last weekend.

Asked if was the best display of his reign at the club so far, the Dutchman said: "In terms of a total team performance, yes.

"Of course, it is difficult to say no about this afternoon if you win 4-0 against City, but I think the whole team performance was outstanding.

"The second goal had a big impact on the rest of the game, but I think how we played in the second half was really perfect - in my opinion it is impossible to play at a higher level, in every aspect of football. It was a perfect afternoon."

Regarding 18-year-old midfielder Davies, whose excellent first goal for the club on what was only his 10th first-team appearance capped a fine all-round individual display, Koeman said: "He is playing on a high level.

"From the time when he came in the team he has had an impact and you don't expect he will score every weekend, but the level he showed in composure on the ball and that aggression...

"It is not all about young players. I like to bring them in, but you can't play with 11 boys. They are for the future.

"But if - like Tom Davies, like (defender) Mason Holgate - they bring the performance and the level, I will be the first to put them on the list."

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