LONDON – It was clear what Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was thinking as he prepared for his side’s trip to Southampton for their League Cup quarter-final on Wednesday.
He just wants to win the title again.
The Spaniard is buoyed by his team’s good form after beating Chelsea twice in the new year – 1-0 in the Premier League and a 4-0 thrashing of the Blues in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, when he could even afford to leave Norwegian hotshot Erling Haaland on the bench.
“It’s been good and we’ve won it,” Guardiola said on Tuesday of the League Cup.
“I’ve said before some competitions are more important than the Carabao Cup but tomorrow we play Southampton and we want to win.
“The way we want to play is simple. Without the ball, help each other and, with the ball, be in the right position to get it.
“Honestly, it’s not difficult, and we want to win it. We try and last season we were out in the early stages to West Ham but we were magnificent in the game.
“I say many times, whatever happens in the future will not change what we have done.
“Many things have been fantastic. The way we’re still playing with high, high quality after so many years is great.”
City are five points behind leaders Arsenal in the chase for the Premier League title but Guardiola will be focusing on winning the League Cup for the seventh time in the past 10 years.
His team last won this competition in 2021. They have lost just three of their 29 League Cup matches under the Spaniard and have won their last eight quarter-final ties.
City scored four goals in each of their last two meetings with the Saints, winning 4-0 in the Premier League in October and 4-1 in the FA Cup quarter-finals last March.
Guardiola has a fully fit squad to pick from, with the exception of injured Portuguese defender Ruben Dias, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury he picked up during the Qatar World Cup.
The City boss also gave an update on Kalvin Phillips, who is set to make his first start for the club since joining in the summer after struggling with injuries and fitness issues.
“He’s always ready. He needed time for tactical aspects but he’s ready,” Guardiola said.
“We have to see but I think he’s an intelligent player. Normally holding midfielders (are) so clever.
“He has indicated at Leeds the commitment of every training session and every game.
“But there are patterns and movements and you need game time.”
Saints boss Nathan Jones has not impressed since he was appointed in early November, having lost all four Premier League matches under his charge and conceding nine goals in the process.
However, the Welshman has had more success in the Cup competitions, fighting back to defeat Lincoln City 2-1 in the League Cup round of 16, and also coming from behind to beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third round on Saturday by the same scoreline.
When asked about facing City, Jones said: “It’s probably the toughest test you can possibly have, they are one of the best in the world.
“But it’s the quarter-finals of a Cup, so you know it’s a shoot-out.
“It’s winner takes all, so we need a strong home performance. We’ve got a real strong performance on the weekend so, hopefully, we can back that up.”
Southampton, who have beaten City just once in their last 15 encounters, are missing the injured Armel Bella-Kotchap and Stuart Armstrong.
Valentino Livramento, Juan Larios, Theo Walcott and Alex McCarthy are all doubtful. AFP