Guardiola unconcerned by 'when and where' of title win

Manchester City's David Silva celebrating his second strike with the creator of the goal Gabriel Jesus, and Kevin de Bruyne. The Spaniard's double sealed three points on a cold, rainy night in Stoke as City moved closer to clinching the Premier Leagu
Manchester City's David Silva celebrating his second strike with the creator of the goal Gabriel Jesus, and Kevin de Bruyne. The Spaniard's double sealed three points on a cold, rainy night in Stoke as City moved closer to clinching the Premier League title.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has played down growing excitement among Manchester City fans over possibly lifting the Premier League title when they host neighbours United in the derby on April 7.

Following Monday's 2-0 win at Stoke, they could seal the title with victory at mid-table Everton and then at the Etihad Stadium against Jose Mourinho's United.

"Everybody is always asking this question," said Guardiola, whose team are 16 points clear at the top. "But the important thing is on March 12, we have 81 points.

"We want to be champions. We need three wins but we are able to do it with two (if City beat United).

"But, before and after United, we have the (Champions League) quarter-finals, and that is the most important thing to focus on.

"I understand for the fans but the important thing is to be champions. When and where it doesn't matter."

The runaway league leaders are also in with a strong chance of winning Europe's premier prize for the first time in their history with the draw for the Champions League last eight taking place on Friday.

Guardiola will watch it with his first-team squad at their warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, where City flew off to following the Stoke win.

"We are going to be together and make three training sessions in five days... some people are playing golf," said Guardiola. "But the weather conditions are better - the forecast in Manchester is rain!"

Two goals from David Silva at Stoke, both rounding off characteristically slick moves, secured their 26th victory in 30 Premier League matches this season and it would have been more emphatic had Raheem Sterling not passed up more than one clear scoring opportunity.

Silva, whose term has been disrupted following the premature birth of his son which has forced him to return to Spain regularly, admitted afterwards "it had been good for him to play".

City can look forward to a memorable finale to the season after their break in the sun given their current league dominance although Guardiola is clearly not in the mood to allow his players to relax.

"There are always goals to pursue, statistics to overcome, and we will carry on and then work towards next season. There is always room for improvement and that is what we will do," he added.

And Fernandinho echoed the same sentiments that has made City's title race a procession, saying: "We are close to winning the league but we have to keep working and keep focused, as we did since the first day, game by game, step by step."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Guardiola unconcerned by 'when and where' of title win'. Print Edition | Subscribe