Wednesday 12 December 2018

Guardiola fears stuttering City may blow league title

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire

James Ducker

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City could still blow the Premier League title.

City need six points from their remaining six games to guarantee becoming champions but manager Guardiola has admitted the pressure could get to his players in the wake of their worst week of the season.

Manchester United will move to within seven points of City if the Sky Blues lose to Spurs at Wembley tonight and Jose Mourinho side's beat bottom club West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford tomorrow and Bournemouth on Wednesday.

City are coming off the back of a three-match losing run, with their 3-2 loss against United sandwiched between defeats to Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final.

When it was put to Guardiola that he could not realistically believe his side - 13 points clear of United - would collapse, the Catalan insisted it was possible and cited Real Madrid losing six of their final seven league games in 2003-04 to squander a one-point lead and surrender the La Liga title to Valencia.

"Of course it can happen, I assure you," Guardiola said about City's prospects of blowing the title. "Real Madrid, years ago, lost six games in a row and didn't win the league. It can happen, no doubts about that.

"They (the players) know that. In football, in sports - it can happen. (In 2016), never before, in the NBA finals, one team recovered from 3-1 down.

"Cleveland Cavaliers won against Golden State Warriors 4-3. They (Cleveland) won three games in a row, so in sports it can happen."

Nonetheless, Guardiola hopes City will handle the pressure. "It's in our hands, we don't depend on anyone else, and that's a good advantage," he said.

"So we have six games. We have to win two and (against Spurs) we're going to start to do it the way we do it. So if we lose, we're going to do it in a similar way to the way we played against United and Liverpool.

"That will be good for our future, you have to handle that. You have to learn that because at the end, if we were not able to do it and United win the league, all we can say is 'Congratulations to United', reflect on what we have done badly in the last month and move forward.''

Guardiola expects United to win all their six games. "My feeling is that United are in good shape and have top players and are going to win all six of their games," he said.

Guardiola claimed he has only 14 senior players available against Tottenham. Midfielder Fernandinho begins a two-match ban and Guardiola raised the prospect of Sergio Aguero not playing for City again this season.

Guardiola said Aguero had been left in a lot of pain and unable to run after playing as a substitute against Liverpool on Tuesday.

"With the problem with the knee he could not train, he played the last 20 minutes (against Liverpool) and after the game said, 'I cannot run, I have a lot of pain'. I don't know about Swansea on Sunday week."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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