City still 'have fight' in them

Guardiola backs team, 11 points off Premier League lead, to out-battle 'big lumps' Burnley

LONDON • Manchester City have not conceded two or more goals in three straight away games since a run of four in April 2011.

But that is the prospect that the Premier League champions are facing as they travel to Burnley today.

City manager Pep Guardiola yesterday admitted that Turf Moor would be "a difficult place to go", warning his flagging side, who are 11 points behind leaders Liverpool who are on 40, to expect an aerial bombardment.

At his pre-match press conference, he said: "They (Burnley) attack quick and arrive in the sides and make good cross and good finishing. They're good with the second ball and we have to adapt.

"What Sean Dyche teams play, the way he plays, they do perfect so they have incredible success in the last years in the Premier League doing what they have done. They attack really well and, in defence, they are so aggressive."

However, he denied his third-place team were suffering from a crisis of confidence, insisting that they still "have fight".

"It's good they believe it," he said. "They have to believe to win tomorrow, the situation, we can't think too much of the people in front.

"We have to think what we need to do to win the games."

But the Spaniard, who is already missing Sergio Aguero, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane through injuries, will also be without Ilkay Gundogan after the German midfielder picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign at Newcastle. Their lengthy absentee list could tip the balance in favour of the hosts.

Burnley have their own injury problems, with doubts over Charlie Taylor, Erik Pieters, Ashley Westwood and Johann Berg Gudmundsson. But, in Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, they have one of the most-potent strike duo in the top flight.

They already have six strikes apiece this term and their physicality is key to the way the team play. The Clarets have scored six of their goals from set plays this season.

Barnes feels part of their success, despite not being the most technical of players, lies in "defenders not being used to big lumps like us".

He told the Daily Mail: "We are physical and like the defenders to think they've been in a fight... If we have to hustle and bustle and shove and barge, so be it."

While many critics are already predicting it is Liverpool's title to lose, Roberto Mancini believes that it is still too early to write off City, regardless of what happens today.

The Italy coach told Sky Sports: "Liverpool in the last two years are a strong team. But I remember last year in November and December, Manchester City were seven points behind Liverpool.

"The Premier League is a very difficult championship. There is too long (to go)."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline 'City still 'have fight' in them'. Print Edition | Subscribe