Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City v Burnley: I've reeled in big deficits to win titles before, says defiant Pep Guardiola

Premier League: Etihad Stadium, Today, 3.00pm

By Tim Rich

Outside the away dressing room at Anfield, Pep Guardiola could be seen talking animatedly to one of his oldest friends in the game, Manchester City's director of football Txiki Begiristain.

Inside the dressing room, the City manager had been as angry as he can have been in his first Premier League season. As the last hours of 2016 dribbled away, Liverpool had scored the kind of goal Guardiola might have predicted and clung on to their precious points without difficulty.

City ace Yaya Toure said: "When you are losing and Liverpool are the better side, it's not going to be happy at half-time. Of course, he was angry and he is a manager who can be angry.

"We knew Liverpool would be waiting when we lost the ball and they did that to score. He will be angry for everything."

This was City's third defeat in a calendar month. They had not suffered those kinds of results since 2008, the year of the Abu Dhabi takeover.

This New Year opened with City - who face Burnley today - in third place, and after yesterday's results they slipped to fifth.

"Normally, I was top," Guardiola said with a thin smile. "I was there a lot of times with Barcelona and Bayern Munich but this is a new chapter in my career. I am willing to try to handle it.

"I was one time at Barcelona nine points behind Real Madrid and after that we recovered. I once won a league after being 12 points behind.

"But the question is: 'Are we able to reduce the gap on Chelsea?' We have to focus on the next game and not put a lot of stress on things."

Guardiola must be aware that unless he wins the European Cup - something he did not achieve while at Bayern Munich - anything less than first place at City would be counted as a failure.

The worry was that while Liverpool played exactly as their manager, Jurgen Klopp, would have expected, City looked less of a Guardiola team at Anfield than they have done at any time during the season.

When asked when City would start looking like the kind of teams he was usually associated with, Guardiola replied: "I don't know. Jurgen has been here more than one season, I have been here just six months and the way we want to play in the league is not that simple.

"We need more time but I am an optimistic guy."

In the small hours of yesterday, City received their first reinforcement when Gabriel Jesus arrived from Brazil.

In Pele's judgment, the 19-year-old from Sao Paulo is a greater natural talent than Neymar and he may have to be used sooner rather than later. City now require a string of victories.

Toure pointed out that New Year's Day 2014 was the start of City producing a thrilling sequence of results - eight wins and a draw from nine games with 33 goals. "We have the team and we have the squad to do something similar," he said.

Three years ago the gap was a point and the leaders were an Arsenal team with a well-established reputation for flakiness under fire. This year it is 10 and the leaders are the remorseless machine Antonio Conte has built at Chelsea. There is no comparison.

Belfast Telegraph


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