Pep Guardiola targets winning run to pile pressure on Arsenal and Liverpool

Pep Guardiola targets winning run to pile pressure on Arsenal and Liverpool

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is braced for another Premier League title race that could go down to the final day of the season.

The defending champions are playing catch up in a tight three-way battle with Liverpool and Arsenal.

They kept the pressure on with an impressive 4-1 rout of a depleted Aston Villa side on Wednesday as Phil Foden’s hat-trick highlighted a display closer to their devastating best.

City have been in similar positions before under Guardiola and been able to put together a long winning run to come out on top.

The Catalan remains adamant his side are only third favourites to lift the trophy, but he expects his players to keep up the fight as they seek a fourth straight title.

“If we win all our games it will go until the last day because they are not five, six, seven points in front,” he said.

“It will not be easy. The feeling I have is not easy. I see Liverpool and Arsenal playing, they don’t drop points, it will not be easy.

“But we have to do our job and don’t regret, ‘Oh, we should have won that game because they lost after’. We cannot do anything, we do not play against them any more so we don’t control what Liverpool and Arsenal do. All we can do is win our games.”

Even with Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland only among the substitutes as next week’s Champions League trip to Real Madrid looms, City turned in a dominant performance.

Although Jhon Duran cancelled out Rodri’s opener on Wednesday, Guardiola’s side had 25 efforts at goal compared to eight for Villa, with Julian Alvarez a regular threat and substitute Sergio Gomez hitting the post in stoppage time.

But when asked if it was a sign that City were hitting their stride just in time, Guardiola pointedly referenced some of the criticism directed at his side following Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal.

He said: “We were out of the title race three or four days ago and not playing good, the team was not playing like we did the last six seasons. Now we are in the best form in the league? Come on, guys…

“We’ve won a lot of the last games. I cannot say in the game against Arsenal I didn’t recognise my team. We were there all the time, we didn’t create chances because of the quality of defence and because we missed some presence in the box, but the rest, I recognise completely my team.

“That’s why we are calm. As I said, it’s tight, it’s not seven or eight points. It’s close. We have to wait. They have to lose points, otherwise it will not be possible, but again the team has been exceptional this season, exceptional.”

Wednesday’s result was a setback for Villa’s pursuit of a top-four finish, but one that came with a number of key players missing.

Ollie Watkins sat out injured while goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez pulled out with a stomach problem after being initially named in the team. In total, there were six changes to the side that started Saturday’s win over Wolves.

However, Emery indicated that both Martinez and Watkins could come into contention to face Brentford at the weekend, while John McGinn will return from suspension.

“We are without some players in some positions and it’s very important again to recover,” Emery said. “We will need these players, and this was also why we try to give some others minutes.”

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