Sunday 16 June 2019

Driven Guardiola has no time for festive cheer

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty

Chris Brereton

For a man inching ever closer to yet another era-defining record - and almost certainly the Premier League trophy - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola remains devoid of festive cheer.

City's 4-0 victory over Bournemouth was their 17th straight Premier League victory and although football is a funny old game, something truly hilarious would have to occur to rob City of the title this term.

To say that before 2017 is out sounds preposterous, but then so is City's form. The Etihad juggernaut continued unabated as Bournemouth, who did not deserve to go down by a 4-0 scoreline, left as battered and broken as everybody else.

Next up is Newcastle United tomorrow, but any thoughts that Guardiola may be getting distracted by beating his own winning record were swept aside as quickly as Bournemouth were and as swiftly as Newcastle could well be.

While manager of Bayern Munich Guardiola won 19 league matches on the bounce between October 2013 and March 2014 and he remains just 180 minutes away from equalling that feat.

Yet Guardiola cares little for that, nor does he care if his squad does not like the rotation system that has seen them fly so far clear of their Premier League rivals.

Reports suggesting Sergio Aguero is becoming frustrated about sharing striking top-billing with Gabriel Jesus have emerged in recent days, but Guardiola is in no mood to either worry about utilising all his squad, nor the number of matches City have in the coming month.

The Newcastle fixture is the first of eight City will face inside a month, but the Etihad boss is eager to see his team continue to do what they have been doing all year - namely powering on relentlessly and ridiculously.

"Fatigue? I don't think so," Guardiola said, when asked if City will get heavy-legged in the coming weeks.

"It may happen, but we've a good enough squad. Gabriel (Jesus) didn't play against Bournemouth - he played 120 minutes against Leicester and he's the (best) fighter in the high pressing I've ever seen in my life. He helps us a lot with our intensity.

"Of course we will rotate in this period. We have a game every four days. Everyone that has played in the past is going to play in the future."

As for eclipsing his own Bayern brilliance, Guardiola was just as dispassionate.

"Since August we have won a lot of games and that's why we are happy," he said. "Our lives are better when we win, it's simple like that. But I'm not going to sleep thinking about if I am going to break a record from my time at Bayern Munich. It's nothing special. It's about Newcastle.

"I could not see them over the last few days of this Christmas time. So now I'll sit down with my staff with our laptops, try to discover what they do and keep our pace and intensity with and without the ball.

"The players must focus on Newcastle, focus on what they have to do on the pitch - offensively, defensively, individually, like a group. Forget about the table, the schedule, and focus on what we have to do. That is the best way."

Kevin De Bruyne could be a doubt for the Newcastle match, having missed training last week because of flu.

Independent News Service

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