Guardiola to Man City squad: Focus on yourselves, not Liverpool

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For the first time since Pep Guardiola‘s first season at Manchester City, the club are looking up in the standings.

With Man City’s comfortable 3-0 win over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers, Guardiola’s side are now just four points back of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. With such a tight race, one could forgive some Man City players of keeping an eye on Liverpool’s results while trying to keep winning their own. Guardiola, however, urged his side on Monday evening to focus on themselves.

[RECAP, VIDEO: Man City defeats Wolves]

“We cannot play Liverpool so we can’t do anything about them – all we can do is win our games,” Guardiola told reporters. “We can control what we do and that’s being there (challenging for the title) but if we won’t win, then they will be Champions and I will congratulate Jurgen. That’s why we have to win. We have incredible numbers after what we did last season.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to know (how many points Man City will need). I said to the players: don’t watch the calendar for the Liverpool games because when that happens, you get distracted and lose games. They are one team and have done better so far but we have to be there until the end.”

Interestingly enough, both teams have a decent run of fixtures ahead. Liverpool has Crystal Palace and Leicester City at home before traveling to West Ham, while Manchester City visits Huddersfield Town before cup fixtures against Burton Albion and Burnley. However, come February, the tough fixtures arrive. Liverpool has a pair of matches in the UEFA Champions League against Bayern Munich as well as facing Manchester United, Watford away and then Everton in the first weekend of March. For Man City, it faces Arsenal, Chelsea, and two matches against Schalke all in a row to start February, which will be a difficult run.

The Premier League title wasn’t decided in December, but it could be within the next 30 days, depending on how each club manages that stretch.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Wolves

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  • Another must-win for Man City’s title hopes
  • Man City 2nd in PL table; Wolves sit 11th
  • Wolves held City to a 1-1 draw in August

Manchester City did the really hard part of reinserting themselves into the Premier League title race — beating leaders Liverpool to cut the Reds’ lead to just four points — but now comes the next challenge for Pep Guardiola‘s side: maintaining that same level of performance in every single game for the next five months so as to, at a minimum, match Liverpool stride for stride, just to remain within four points.

When 11th-place Wolverhampton Wanderers visit the Etihad Stadium on Monday, Man City will already be playing from behind after Liverpool secured a hard-fought victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

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Since their top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool, City have put together two of the most lopsided results you’re bound to see all season — albeit against vastly inferior Cup competition. A 7-0 victory over Rotherham United (Championship) in the FA Cup, followed by a 9-0 demolition of League One side Burton Albion in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, has the defending champions overflowing with confidence once again, and at just the right time.

On the other side, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is riding the roller coaster that is a newly promoted club’s first season back in the PL. Wolves have won back-to-back games in four times this season, while also enduring a six-game winless skid that featured five defeats.

What they’re saying

Man City midfielder Bernardo Silva: “(The) win (over Liverpool) was super important, particularly because it was against the leaders and we must show that we are chasing after the title. Our team has great experience. Each one of us has won and lost games and we know how to react to defeats. That’s why, when we’re at the very top, we don’t think we’re the best in the world and when we’re very low, we don’t see that we are the worst. … We are certainly going to give our best in order to keep the higher level.”

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo: “It’s not about who you face, it’s about what you want to put on the pitch, your idea, the way you want to develop. It’s how you want to grow and how you want to do things on the pitch, that’s the philosophy we try. It’s about the approach. … I know the reality of the game, the reality of football. … They are a very good team, one of the best in the world, so there’s no doubt on Monday they’re going to be as good as they always are.”

Prediction

City didn’t put in that kind of effort and performance against Liverpool just to throw it all away and had the title over their next time out in league play. Don’t be surprised when they look like the City of 2017-18 the next few weeks or months, and that’s a frightening proposition for Wolves.

Man City obliterates Burton Albion 9-0 in Carabao Cup

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Manchester City started a strong lineup in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal against League One side Burton Albion, and boy did it pay off.

Pep Guardiola‘s side put on an attacking clinic for the ages as they hammered Burton 9-0 as Gabriel Jesus picked up four goals, while five other blue shirts found the back of the net, including Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, and Riyad Mahrez.

A few Manchester City starters were rested, with Sergio Aguero not in the squad and Ederson, John Stones, and Raheem Sterling all on the bench, but de Bruyne, Walker, and Jesus all found the starting lineup as did David Silva and Ilkay Gundoguan, and the lower league minnows never had a chance.

De Bruyne scored just five minutes in to begin the onslaught, and Manchester City never looked back. Jesus opened his bursting account on the half-hour mark, and doubled his number four minutes later thanks to a great chip from Gundoguan.

Jesus had his hat-trick just before the hour mark, and bagged a fourth five minutes past it. Academy product Phil Foden also got in on the action in the 62nd minute as City scored four goals in a 13-minute second half span. Oleksandr Zinchenko also scored, and Mahrez’s messy effort trickled in with seven minutes remaining to complete the demolition.

After putting seven goals past Rotherham in early FA Cup action last time out, Manchester City becomes the first English club to record at least a combined 16 goals across two consecutive fixtures since they did it back in 1987 (source: Opta). Burton Albion had achieved much just to reach this point of the competition, having already defeated Premier League side Burnley back in the third round and taking down fellow Championship clubs Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, and Middlesbrough on its way to the semifinals.

Manchester City takes its incredible goalscoring form back to the Premier League where they face newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday followed by a Sunday meeting with Huddersfield Town, before the second leg against Burton Albion which will be little more than a formality.

League Cup semi preview: Just how stunning an upset?

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We saw what Manchester City’s second unit is capable of doing to a Championship side when Pep Guardiola‘s men deconstructed Rotherham United to the tune of 7-0 in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-0 Chelsea ]

So what can City do to a mid-table side from League One? And how unthinkable an upset is a Burton Albion victory, especially since manager Nigel Clough was “staggered” by reaching the semi via a defeat of Middlesbrough?

Well, let’s think on it.

Burton Albion’s only defeat of a Premier League team this season is a 2-1 take down of visiting Burnley, and all five of their League Cup wins have come by single goals.

And while City may have lost to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup last season, that was not in a round on the precipice of a final.

Clough, no stranger to the upper reaches of competition, puts its plainly. From The Telegraph:

“It’s almost a bye to the final for City. I don’t think we can go into it thinking we’ve got a fighting chance of winning it,” he says, deadly serious. “If we beat them over two legs, it will be the biggest shock of all time. I don’t know what Pep’s thinking will be but I would imagine it will be to make the second leg irrelevant. But we’ve got to try and do the opposite to that and try to retain a glimmer of hope.”

What is Pep thinking, then (Let’s keep up the thinking theme)?

“Winning is important,” he said. “The Carabao Cup is the more local competition. Everybody is happy to win and nobody is sad if they go out in the competition. We are here in the semi-final and we want to win.”

Burton beating Man City over two legs would be on par with Leicester City winning the Premier League. Is that too bold to say?

Sarri: Pochettino ‘has to win trophy’ at Spurs

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London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea begin their League Cup semifinal with a first leg at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, and their managers are striking two different notes on the same ideas: Championships and legacy.

Both involve the big picture, though, and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri‘s thoughts center around the importance of winning hardware. Not just for his short reign at Chelsea, but — pressure alert — Pochettino’s tenure at Spurs.

[ MORE: Wolves-LFC recap | 4th round draw ]

“I agree he has to win a trophy, I hope not this,” Sarri said, according to The London Evening Standard. “For Pochettino, four years (without a trophy), for Jurgen Klopp, four years. It was really very hard in the first season also for Pep Guardiola so here it is really very difficult to build up a very good team – you need time.”

Sarri also admitted that the Blues’ 3-1 Premier League loss at Spurs hurt their season in a big way.

Meanwhile, Pochettino was discussing his admiration for another former London boss, two-decade plus Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger. And for him, five years is a short part of a big project. From the LES:

“It’s true it’s only going to be my fifth year,” Pochettino said. “But it’s true we work and we know the reality of all that happens inside, and sometimes we cannot expect that the people [on the outside] live the same reality or have the same knowledge about what happens inside. I hope, or I wish maybe, to be here 20 years and decide to leave or to finish my career here.

“But I don’t know because I need to ask him if I have one day the possibility if he is so happy in the way that he finished. I don’t believe. What I saw from my point of view, it was so unfair how the people treated him and talked. But we’ll see.”

Are we the only ones having a difficult time keeping that in context? Does Pochettino harbor thoughts about leaving before spoiling his legacy? Or does he genuinely think a long run at Spurs is in the offering?

Trust us, Ed Woodward and Florentino Perez really would like to know the answers to those questions (even the context one).