Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola can handle the Premier League pressure says Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic insists Pep Guardiola can handle the heat of the Premier League.

City began the season with 10 straight wins but performances began to dip towards the end of last year and they are now fourth, seven points behind leaders Chelsea.

Boss Guardiola seemed uncomfortable during a series of tetchy post-match interviews following Monday's unconvincing 2-1 win over Burnley.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich chief is more used to two or three-horse title races rather than battling with the six teams who look capable of challenging this season.

But Bilic, whose West Ham side face City in the FA Cup on Friday evening, says Guardiola can cope with the pressure.

"I saw his interview but maybe he was just tired after a couple of games in three days," said the Hammers manager.

"Maybe after the great start they made some fans or pundits expected them to cruise in the league, especially with Guardiola.

"But it is never easy in any league, especially here. They are not struggling but for their standards, to be however many points from the top is probably not what they expected.

"In Germany and Spain the leagues are very competitive. With Bayern you are more likely to be a champion, but you have Dortmund and during his time Wolfsburg were there and a few other clubs. None of the games were easy.

"In the Primera Liga you are not guaranteed. He didn't win the title every year in Barcelona. You have Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid were flying.

"If Bayern are not top of the table it's a big thing. It's big pressure there. This is the kind of club he's got used to working in.

"He's never worked in a smaller club, he's never fought against relegation or mid-table or anything different than 'we have to win the league'.

"Is it Barcelona, is it Bayern, is it Man City? It's the same. He knew the intensity of the English league, he was well prepared for a difficult season. He didn't expect anything less than he is getting or has faced so far."

Bilic, who hopes to reinforce his firepower by signing Jermain Defoe from Sunderland and Brentford's Scott Hogan this month, has confirmed Juventus loan flop Simone Zaza's West Ham career is over.

The Hammers have winger Sofiane Feghouli available to fafce City after his red card against Manchester United was rescinded.

Cheikhou Kouyate and Andre Ayew have gone on African Nations Cup duty but Reece Oxford and Sam Byram are back from spells out injured.

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