City must 'fight till the end' for title

Manchester City players like captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero have little time to celebrate last Sunday's League Cup triumph. They return to Premier League action today against former City manager Manuel Pellegrini's West Ham before
Manchester City players like captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero have little time to celebrate last Sunday's League Cup triumph. They return to Premier League action today against former City manager Manuel Pellegrini's West Ham before the visit to Bournemouth on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite growing injury list, Pep tells players to keep pressure on Liverpool in EPL race

LONDON • Manchester City have just won the League Cup last Sunday, but manager Pep Guardiola believes there is no time to rest as he urged his team to carry on the momentum in their bid to retain their Premier League title this season.

City will host West Ham in the league today and, when asked yesterday if his players were fatigued following the penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea, the Spaniard said: "It helps. The guys train good when you win the second title of the season (after their Community Shield win).

"The last few days, the conditions have improved, but the reality is we don't have much time to think about what has happened.

"After the West Ham game, we have three days and then Bournemouth, but we are going to pick a strong side in order to try and win the game."

While it is Guardiola's ambition to win every competition his team are contesting, he will likely be cautious when former City boss Manuel Pellegrini's Hammers visit the Etihad.

Midfielder Fernandinho (groin) and central defender Aymeric Laporte (hamstring) picked up injuries at Wembley that would sideline them for several weeks.

Fernandinho, in particular, has become one of Guardiola's most dependable lieutenants.

Since his arrival in 2013, City have won more than 70 per cent of the games in which he has played, a percentage that drops below 60 in his absence.

Most recently, when City suffered shock consecutive defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester, the 33-year-old was absent.

Ilkay Gundogan and Fabian Delph are logical replacements in the defensive midfield role, but they cannot match Fernandinho's poise and tackling ability.

The Brazilian's all-round excellence even saw him selected at centre-half for the recent home win over Arsenal, and the loss of Laporte adds to the manager's concerns in that department.

Veteran Vincent Kompany has struggled for fitness and form for much of the season although John Stones is close to returning from his injury layoff.

Guardiola knows that if City are to win the Premier League again this term, and also the FA Cup and the Champions League, Fernandinho will be a crucial factor.

City, on 65 points, go into today's match a point behind leaders Liverpool, who have drawn three of their last four league matches.

"Still, they are leading," Guardiola said, shrugging off suggestions that Jurgen Klopp's men are struggling.

"There are still a lot of games to play and they are leading by one point. The lead is shorter than I expected a few weeks ago, but they are still leading.

"I didn't watch the Liverpool game against Manchester United (0-0 draw) so I cannot give you an opinion.

"The difference is one point with 33 points to play. It's in Liverpool's hands, but it's in ours too, we have to put on pressure. We fight until the end for the title."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAN CITY V WEST HAM

Singtel TV Ch105 & StarHub Ch230, tomorrow, 3.50am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'City must 'fight till the end' for title'. Print Edition | Subscribe