Title talk is crazy: Pep

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrating scoring his and his team's second goal of the game against Burnley on Tuesday. The Brazilian's strikes, one in each half, set the champions on their way to a 4-1 win.
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrating scoring his and his team's second goal of the game against Burnley on Tuesday. The Brazilian's strikes, one in each half, set the champions on their way to a 4-1 win.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

City boss notes big gap despite convincing win at Burnley, says team focused on derby

LONDON • With Manchester City eight points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool 15 matches into the season, it has been tempting for observers to write off the champions' title chances. But it has also become fodder for manager Pep Guardiola and his acerbic sense of humour when he appeared to throw in the towel for the title race.

Asked at his post-match press conference about City's chances, the Spaniard said "the title is over."

He added: "Nobody gives us a chance. Like everyone says, we are out, we have no chance. We are thinking only about ourselves and the next game.

The 48-year-old did concede it would be "crazy" for his team to think about retaining their title owing to Liverpool's lead after City's 4-1 win at Burnley on Tuesday. The Reds' result from their game against Everton was not available at press time. He added: "Our team is stable and that's what we want. For the distance we are behind Liverpool, it would be crazy to think about the title.

"We have to think about the (Manchester) derby on Saturday, the other competitions we have, and take this rhythm forward.

"To think how many ways (we can get) close to Liverpool is a stupid way to think."

City were under pressure to rediscover their form quickly on Tuesday after a run of games in which they looked to have lost their way.

Their win over a modest home side was not in itself an indication of their credentials to catch Liverpool, but rather a sign City have regained their swagger.

In their recent performances, including last Saturday's 2-2 stalemate at Newcastle and the 1-1 Champions League draw with Shakhtar Donetsk earlier, they struggled to stamp their authority on both games.

TITLE TALK PREMATURE

Our team is stable and that's what we want. For the distance we are behind Liverpool, it would be crazy to think about the title.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Man City manager, holding his horses on reviving their league title ambitions as they still trail Liverpool by eight points.

Even in their 2-1 home win over Chelsea last month, they did not impress, keeping only 46.74 per cent possession, the lowest any Guardiola team has recorded.

At Burnley it was back up to 76 per cent and, unsurprisingly, he sees the return to a dominant passing game as essential.

"I'm glad we pass more," he said, noting their inability to keep the ball was behind the team's dip in form. "We are built to have the ball and pass. You have to move the ball more as it's the only way, to pass the ball, we did it really well."

With City zipping the ball around with aplomb, some players who were questioned in recent weeks went some way towards proving their form.

Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, deputising for the injured Sergio Aguero, scored twice and looked sharp throughout, while Spanish midfielder Rodri showed his pedigree from range with a thunderous strike for the third goal.

Riyad Mahrez added gloss to the scoreline with the fourth in the 87th minute before Robbie Brady pulled one back two minutes later.

"We need (Jesus) to score these goals, they will help him and the team. We've lost an incredible striker in Sergio," said Guardiola.

Next up for City is the 179th Manchester derby with United, at the Etihad Stadium, and the manager has called on City fans to be an added boost for his team.

"To play these games is the reason why we are here," he added.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Title talk is crazy: Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe