Saturday 21 April 2018

Winning title in Manchester derby not a goal for us - Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Mark Critchley

Pep Guardiola has insisted that his Manchester City players are not getting ahead of themselves in what is left of the Premier League title race, despite the distinct possibility that they could be crowned champions following the derby against Manchester United.

The two clubs meet again at the Etihad on April 7, in eight league games' time, and leaders City currently sit on 68 points, 15 clear of their neighbours and nearest challengers.

It is possible, given City and United's average points-per-game totals so far this season, that Guardiola's side will have an unassailable lead when the full-time whistle sounds on the 176th Manchester derby.

Claiming the title against their oldest rivals would only make City's third Premier League crown in six years all the sweeter for the club's fans, but Guardiola is paying no attention to the permutations.

"We can't think about that," he insisted, instead choosing to focus on their Turf Moor date with Sean Dyche's Burnley.

"It's about winning the next one and then I don't know what's going to happen. What is important is to try and fight to the end to be champions. That's what counts the most. The rest makes no sense, it is not important."

The City manager does not, however, expect his players to allow complacency to get the better of them, simply stating: "That's not going to happen.

"What we have shown until now in every single game we have played, even in our two defeats (against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and against Liverpool), we tried," he added. "We play every game with a sense of what we are doing.

"I know the distance, 15 points, is quite good in this moment. It was the same three, four or five games before, but in football, in sport, anything can happen. We are good today, but tomorrow we can be bad. A lot of things can happen.

"The most important thing we have done so far is focus on the next game. Then after we will see. Until everything is done, you have to be prepared for anything to happen, in my experience."

The biggest threat to City's title bid appears to be tiredness. Guardiola has had to contend with several injuries to key players recently.

Though he insists that tiredness is not a major issue among his squad, City's first team will be granted three full days' rest after the Burnley game.

"We need to not see each other. They can travel, they can do whatever they want. They are free. For three days they have to forget a little bit about football, be with their families and friends."

(© Independent News Service)

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