Big Match

Best in Europe? 'not city'

Leroy Sane celebrating with Riyad Mahrez after scoring City's first goal in the 2-1 away win over Watford on Tuesday. The team took their foot off the pedal when leading 2-0 and boss Pep Guardiola will not want a recurrence.
Leroy Sane celebrating with Riyad Mahrez after scoring City's first goal in the 2-1 away win over Watford on Tuesday. The team took their foot off the pedal when leading 2-0 and boss Pep Guardiola will not want a recurrence.PHOTO: REUTERS

Modest Guardiola plays down Sarri's remarks and expects a stiff challenge at the Bridge

LONDON • Pep Guardiola yesterday brushed off suggestions by Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri that they were facing "the best team in Europe" and that it was "impossible to beat Manchester City over a long period".

Unbeaten City visit Stamford Bridge today, but the hosts, despite being on paper one of the few teams capable of standing in their way, already trail the Premier League champions by 10 points, having lost their last two away league games.

Sarri was in a downcast mood at his pre-match press conference yesterday, admitting the Blues were "facing some difficulties" and "it was very difficult to cover the gap (to City)".

Although he failed to inspire any confidence among his players and the home fans by conceding City were "stronger than us" and he had no blueprint for winning as "against Guardiola, I (have) lost every match", his opposite number was not lulled into a false sense of security over his mind games.

City manager Guardiola told reporters yesterday that while he appreciated Sarri's compliments, City were not yet the finished article as they "have not won the titles to be the best team in Europe".

The Spaniard is also expecting an "intense, aggressive and committed reaction as they won't accept two defeats in a row".

He said: "Thank you (Sarri) but we are not the best. Stamford Bridge is always a difficult place to go and get a result. I have been there several times and lost, but what makes me most proud is the consistency we have shown over the last 15 or 16 months.

MUCH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Stamford Bridge is always a difficult place to go and get a result, I have been there several times and lost, but what makes me most proud is the consistency we have shown over the last 15 or 16 months.

PEP GUARDIOLA, City manager, who is pleased with the champions' progress since he arrived. But he knows full well that they have not won the Champions League.

"I am pleased with the way we have been playing, but it would be a dangerous mistake to imagine we could not improve. There are still many things we can do better."

Guardiola again had to bat away claims his team could go through the league term unbeaten, even though City have not lost in 15 (league) matches, and warned his side against complacency as the Blues were no pushovers and would be a "huge, demanding test for us".

"I don't care about that (record)," he said. "The most important thing to think about is always the next game, and Chelsea are an excellent team.

"I admire what Maurizio Sarri has done in a short time, even when we played them in the Community Shield at the start of the season, you could see it was his team, playing the way he wanted (them) to play.

"Some people do not know how difficult it is to create a special way to play. You need time.

"Maybe they (Chelsea) are not playing (good for) 90 minutes but when they play good for 50, 60, 70, 75 minutes, they are excellent."

While Chelsea's squad have a clean bill of health, City will again be without striker Sergio Aguero, who has missed their last two league games, along with midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and defender Benjamin Mendy.

"Sergio will be back soon but he cannot play against Chelsea," Guardiola added. "Kevin will also be back soon, but not this week."

THE GUARDIAN

CHELSEA V MAN CITY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2018, with the headline 'Best in Europe? 'not city''. Print Edition | Subscribe