Saturday 24 February 2018

Guardiola respects home Turf as City get better of Burnley

Burnley1 Manchester City 2

Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero. Photo: Getty
Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero. Photo: Getty

Jim White

We are still in November, but pantomime season appeared to have come early for the Burnley defence at Turf Moor.

Twice Ben Mee and his team-mates failed to see that behind them lurked the most potent predator in the Premier League.

Burnley's Michael Keane heads the ball. Photo: Getty
Burnley's Michael Keane heads the ball. Photo: Getty

And twice Sergio Aguero made them pay for a failure to clear their lines, stepping through the chaos to convert from close range.

Never mind that neither of his team's goals will feature in any end-of-season highlights reel (unlike Dean Marney's crisp long-range opener for Burnley), Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola announced himself delighted with his side's performance.

It was not just the three points that pleased the Spaniard. It was the evidence on show that he has a team versed in the requirement of making a charge for the title.

"To win the league you don't always play at home, you have to adapt," he said. "Every game depends on the quality of players. This type of game is so complicated to defend, the lines, the angles. Hopefully, in the future we can control it even better."

City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring his team's first goal. Photo: Getty
City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring his team's first goal. Photo: Getty

Guardiola got his tactics spot on. He put Fernando and Fernandinho in his central midfield, playing behind a roaming Yaya Toure, because he felt they were better equipped to deal with their direct opponents than the rested duo of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne.

"The second ball we have to control," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the way Burnley play. That is why Fernando and Fernandinho were used."

His hope was that his Brazilian pair would offer a shield to the back four.

It took a while to counter what Burnley's Sean Dyche described as the home side's "awkward play" but, once they did, City were never under serious threat. "Before our game they were the second-best team in the league at home," Guardiola erroneously pointed out of Burnley's then third-placed home record. "The Crystal Palace game was really, really important. And this was really important."

Having proven that his side can roll their sleeves up, the next challenge for the coach is very different - next Saturday they face league leaders Chelsea, brilliantly corralled by Antonio Conte. "We now play the best team in the league," said Guardiola. "We have to discover his secret." © Daily Telegraph, London.

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