City players will not be ‘losers’ even if they fail to retain title, says Pep
City are a point clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City’s players must not be regarded as losers should they be pipped to the Premier League title by rivals Liverpool.
The Spaniard believes his team are currently producing “much, much better” football than during last season’s record-breaking title success.
City are marginal favourites to retain their crown after Saturday’s commanding 1-0 win at Bournemouth and Sunday’s goalless Merseyside derby left them a point ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds with nine matches remaining.
“In the way we play, we play much, much better (than last season),” he said.
“Everybody knows exactly what we have to do, everybody helps each other. And when this happens, we can compete and if we lose, we lose, but no regrets.
“I know in our society just the first one has the credit and the second one is an absolute loser.
“But it is impossible to feel that about my players, it’s impossible.
“I don’t know what is going to happen but it it impossible to feel they are not good competitors, good players, good athletes, good everything seeing what we have seen this season.”
City smashed a host of records en route to becoming champions in 2017/18, including amassing 100 points and scoring 106 goals.
Despite failing to replicate that level of dominance this term, they have overturned a seven-point deficit in recent months to wrestle top spot from Liverpool.
Victory at the Vitality Stadium was their fifth in a row in the league and secured with 82 per cent possession and by preventing the hosts from registering a shot at goal.
Guardiola admits his team could have easily fallen out of title contention and feels their current position is even remarkable given a Carabao Cup success and progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals has resulted in a far busier fixture schedule than their nearest rival.
“Of course we want to win the Premier League, I feel the players show me every single day they want to win it,” he said.
“But we have played nine or 10 games more than Liverpool, it’s a lot of minutes in our legs in all competitions.
“In spite of that, still we are there and that’s why I’m happy. I would prefer it to be like last season’s position – to be 12 points in front – but that is an exceptional situation.
“We could be 10 points (behind) when Liverpool came (to the Etihad Stadium in January), could be seven points after our defeat against Newcastle. All we can do is be in there. Let them feel we are there.”
While Guardiola was left purring at the manner of the weekend win, his satisfaction was tempered by Kevin De Bruyne’s hamstring injury and a recurrence of a groin problem for England defender John Stones.
He is awaiting to discover the extent of those issues but fears Belgium midfielder De Bruyne may be “out for a while”.