Pep proud Manchester City have raised bar

Despite being EPL standard-bearers with slew of records, Spaniard vows further upgrades

LONDON • Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City have raised the standard of the English Premier League, just as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus did in golf and Usain Bolt did in athletics.

City won the title last season with a record 100 points and this year could retain it with 98 if they win their final three games, starting with Burnley today.

If Liverpool, who beat Huddersfield 5-0 on Friday, win their last two matches, they will finish second with 97 points.

Asked if the bar has been raised by the two teams, Guardiola said: "The standards we created last year, people know that you have to be close to 100 (to be champions). Before it was 90.

"You know when Usain Bolt wins the 100m race - that's the standard and the others have to achieve it. Like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, the same.

"Liverpool know that to win you have to make a lot of points. That's what we communicate to anyone with our performance."

The City manager also insisted that he would seek to keep up the same elevated standard next year.

Asked how the level can be repeated, he said: "Find out what we can do to win the game, work harder, respect the opponents, improve on what we've done this season. That's the only way I know."

City, who scored 143 goals in all competitions last season, have 157 this campaign, setting a record.

"It makes me proud," Guardiola said. "I love to score a lot of goals to respect this game.

"We have 157 goals but we don't have one guy who scored 60, everyone was involved, Sergio (Aguero) and Gabriel (Jesus), they scored a lot, the wingers, attacking midfielders, we cannot score a lot from set pieces because we are a small team.

"It means the club are focused on playing an attractive game and I like that."

After the trip to Burnley today, City will host Leicester before travelling to Brighton.

Guardiola's men, who have won the League Cup and also have an FA Cup final date with Watford on May 18, need nothing less than three wins to become the first team to retain the English title since Manchester United did so in 2009.

That means a City team that have won 26 of their last 28 games, a run dating back to the end of last year, now also stand just four victories away from becoming the first side to win all three domestic trophies in the same season.

It is a feat Guardiola has already achieved in his career - with Barcelona 10 years ago.

But the Spaniard was not keen to draw comparisons.

"We are not thinking too much about the FA Cup final against Watford. I'm concerned with Burnley, Leicester, Brighton," he said.

"Just focus on that. We will analyse at the end of the season how many titles. It's not going to change my opinion of what we've done this season... how many titles we win."

City will be without the injured Kevin de Bruyne at Turf Moor today but, more worryingly, may also have to contend without physical midfielder Fernandinho.

The Brazilian injured his knee in the midweek 2-0 win at United.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'Pep proud City have raised bar'. Print Edition | Subscribe