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Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola Prefers Concern to Calm in Fight for Top Four | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola says in the second half of the season ‘it is likely the title will be decided by results when top-six teams play each other’. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has admitted he is concerned Manchester City have a fight on their hands to remain in the top four but claims he prefers to have that worry rather than be relaxed at the top of the table.

“I would rather be worried than calm and relaxed, especially with these contenders,” the City manager said. “All of the top six are achieving good results but two are not going to qualify for the Champions League next season. We are going to take one game at a time until we arrive in the last six or seven games then see what our position is, see if we are contenders to win the league or not because I think this season is going to be a tough one.”

Guardiola bases that opinion on the form of the present top six, currently looking unlikely to change composition between now and the end of the season. “One team is already out in front and there are six all fighting for four positions, if not the title itself,” he said.

“Manchester United would have been much higher up the table last season with the points they have now because last season all the leading teams made mistakes. This time they are all playing well and the English league is showing why it is different to Germany or Spain. In those countries you have maybe two or three big teams each season. Here there are six and they are all good.

“In the second half of the season I think it is likely the title will be decided by results when top-six teams play each other, always assuming they continue to keep beating the sides lower down the league. That is not something you can always predict in England, but I think it is possible to be certain at this stage that games between top-six teams are going to be important. In Spain I had Real Madrid or Atlético to worry about, in Germany it was Dortmund or Leverkusen but here you know from the beginning there are some really good managers and good teams.”

City have the respite of the FA Cup before league hostilities resume. The fixture list takes them to Goodison Park a week on Sunday and Guardiola is not expecting any favours. “Everton are not even in the top six but they have been beaten at home this season only once,” he said. “And that was by a single [Liverpool] goal after almost 100 minutes. There are six contenders for the title in England but that does not mean there are no other good teams. We cannot start thinking of Liverpool or Chelsea until we have played at Everton.”

With the possible exception of Willy Caballero for Claudio Bravo – a normal cup competition switch in goal, nothing to do with the latter’s performance against Burnley – Guardiola will name a first-string team for the FA Cup tie at West Ham United on Friday night.

“I will try to win the game,” he said. “It will be a tough match away from home against a Premier League side, so I will not be rotating. I like the English cup competition. In Spain it is a little bit predictable but the FA Cup is more like the cup competition they have in Germany. It is a proper knockout, with small teams able to beat big teams.”

Bravo was criticised at the weekend for his inability to deal with the cross that let to Burnley’s goal at the Etihad and although his manager still believes the goalkeeper was fouled and should have received more protection, Guardiola accepts Bravo needs to adapt to the English game. “We are all trying to do that,” Guardiola said. “Claudio is a good goalkeeper and an intelligent guy. He will realise for himself what needs to be done and I am sure he will be able to adapt.”

Guardiola is determined to adapt as well and is willing to admit there are times when he has been too demanding. “Sometimes I have been wrong about my players,” he said. “What I have started to feel over the last few games is that it is not always the fault of the players. This season we have changed so many things about and the players have been exceptional, amazing. When I saw how they fought to win against Burnley, playing with 10 men for 65 minutes, it was emotional for me as coach. To win that game was a special moment. My players showed me how good they are because Burnley are not an easy team.”

Guardiola is surprised at the number of red cards City have picked up. He refused to discuss his team’s disciplinary problem in the aftermath of the game against Burnley, in which Fernandinho was dismissed for the third time this season, but admits he cannot always see the difference in red and yellow cards in this country.

“I see other games and situations, and sometimes the criteria of why decisions are made here are completely different,” he said. “My other teams in Barcelona and Bayern Munich were always first in the Fair Play League, the lowest number of red and yellow cards, so I am a little bit surprised at what has happened, though I always try to be positive and tell my players to respect the rules.”

(The Guardian)