City playing even better than last year: Pep

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures during their game against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, on Sept 29, 2018.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures during their game against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, on Sept 29, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Pep Guardiola reckons Manchester City may be playing at an even higher level than the one they achieved in winning the English Premier League title in record-breaking style last season.

The City manager saw his side beat Brighton 2-0 in comfortable fashion at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with goals from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

It was a result that meant the champions had dropped just two points - in a draw at Wolves - during their first seven league games and are now top of the table, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

And Guardiola insisted the attitude of his players has helped City reach the same - if not higher - heights than they did last season, a claim that will be tested in Sunday's visit to Liverpool.

"Most of the time, we are playing even better than last season," said the Spaniard. "After the kind of season we had, we had fears we might drop points. We dropped two at Wolves but, in general, all the performances were good."

City's results are all the more impressive given they have been without Kevin de Bruyne, arguably their best player last season, who is yet to kick a ball this term following a knee injury on the eve of the campaign.

However, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss warned: "But it is only September. The two games before the international break will be so important for us.

"The spirit, and how we play, and the focus (are important). After a season with 100 points, sometimes you dismiss things, but that has not happened and we continue as a team."

Aguero wrapped up the win, playing a superb role in creating and claiming the second goal in the 65th minute, only for Guardiola to immediately replace him and reveal that the striker is struggling with a heel injury ahead of tomorrow's Champions League visit to German club Hoffenheim.

"Sergio is struggling a little bit with some problem in his foot, he is not 100 per cent," said Guardiola.

"Hopefully, he will be okay for Tuesday. We're controlling the injury, we're fighting it but he needs time. Now we have two games before the international break, hopefully he can do those and, after, make a final recovery."

Regardless of what happens in the Champions League, where City are looking to bounce back after a shock home loss to French side Lyon last month, Guardiola's men are looking forward to Sunday's big game at Anfield with cautious optimism.

"Liverpool beat us three times last season which shows they are a good side and, at Anfield, they score a lot of goals," said the City manager.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2018, with the headline 'City playing even better than last year: Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe