The Big Match

Pep happy despite City's poor run

Ahead of his side's crunch game against an in-form Tottenham, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has stated he is "happy" at the Etihad.
Ahead of his side's crunch game against an in-form Tottenham, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has stated he is "happy" at the Etihad.PHOTO: REUTERS

He blames high expectations, is ready to unleash Gabriel Jesus in crunch Spurs clash

LONDON • Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has dismissed claims he is finding it tough in the English Premier League, particularly after he admitted that his team were out of the title race after the 4-0 defeat by Everton last weekend.

Speaking at a pre-match conference yesterday before today's match against high-flying Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium, the Spaniard said he is "happy" to be in charge of City.

"The expectations are what it is because of my past," he said, referring to when he won the La Liga and Bundesliga titles in his first seasons in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.

"I am happy here in Manchester. I feel very welcome and I am fighting."

When asked how he feels about Spurs, who are on a run of six successive league victories, Guardiola added: "Brilliant. Strong physically, good build-up, quality between the lines. It's a good team - they play attractive football."

In contrast to Tottenham's good form, City have lost four out of their last eight league games and lie in fifth place, two points off the Champions League spots.

NO FEAR

I can't feel scared, being given an opportunity like this to change my life. There are more challenges and opportunities to change the lives of my family members, so I can't be scared of anything.

GABRIEL JESUS, Manchester City's new Brazilian signing, champing at the bit to start the latest chapter of his life.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, signed by Guardiola this season to replace Joe Hart, has been partly to blame for the dire run. The Chilean has conceded 14 of the last 22 shots he faced, including four from four against Everton.

Guardiola appeared calm on criticism of his goalkeeper, saying: "We accept it. It's our job, manager's job, players' job. We accept it."

City's new signing Gabriel Jesus, who completed his £27 million (S$47.38 million) transfer from Palmeiras on Thursday, could make his debut at the Etihad Stadium.

The 19-year-old Brazil forward has admitted that adapting to the ferocious pace of the Premier League could prove a steep learning curve.

"I've watched it and I notice that it's a very hard, intense style of play. I hope to adapt as quickly as possible," Jesus, City's new No. 33, told the club website.

"I know it isn't going to be easy, but it depends on me to put in the effort to help with the transition.

"I can't feel scared, being given an opportunity like this to change my life. There are more challenges and opportunities to change the lives of my family members, so I can't be scared of anything."

Guardiola hinted that Jesus will feature in the Spurs clash, even if he does not start the game.

"He is fit and ready to be involved in the team. He will help us, he will have time to get involved," the City manager said.

"It would have been easier if he could have arrived in the beginning of the season, but he is smart and he has quality."

City also paid a record £175,000 to sign 13-year-old defender Finley Burns from third-tier Southend United last week, The Times of London reported yesterday.

The newspaper said the overall cost of the transfer could rise to more than £250,000 if Burns goes on to sign professional terms at the club, adding that City's outlay was unprecedented for a 13-year-old.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Pep happy despite City's poor run'. Print Edition | Subscribe