Belfast Telegraph

Why our season deserves to be remembered, no matter what happens on last day: Pep Guardiola

 

Proud boss: Pep Guardiola is thrilled with City's season, even if they miss out on the title
Proud boss: Pep Guardiola is thrilled with City's season, even if they miss out on the title

By Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola fears Manchester City's outstanding Premier League campaign will only be remembered well if they clinch the title.

City have clocked up 95 points in their defence of the crown - a figure that was a competition record until last year - but victory is not yet secure.

That is because Liverpool, who have 94, have taken the battle to the final game of the season in a remarkable title race.

City still need to win at Brighton in their last fixture to be sure of claiming another prize. Anything less could allow Liverpool, who host Wolves, to nip ahead of them at the last.

Whatever the outcome, City boss Guardiola feels his players should be proud of the season they have produced - but he thinks not everybody may view it kindly.

Guardiola said: "I'm not going to change my opinion on what we have done, but of course, to get more credit you have to win.

"We saw in the Champions League - when you are out, everybody destroyed the teams, destroyed managers, destroyed clubs, even though they are doing well.

"We know the life in which we live. I know we will be judged. We have to win."

City, who have already won the Carabao Cup, can become the first side to win the domestic treble if they succeed tomorrow and follow up by beating Watford in next week's FA Cup final.

At one stage City trailed Liverpool by seven points - and it could have been an even more intimidating 10 had they lost to the Reds in January - and Guardiola feels to be in this position is already a triumph.

Speaking at a press conference to preview the game at Brighton, he said: "First of all it's a dream to be here. I didn't expect it, when we were seven points behind against this Liverpool, to be in the position we are now.

"We've shown many things but now is not the moment to say how well we've done. We have the chance to be champions if we win our game and that's what we have to do.

"If we make it back-to-back (titles) it would be nice but nothing is going to change too much. The fact is we have done incredibly well all season in all competitions and now have two games - two finals - for two titles."

City's last four wins - against Tottenham, Manchester United, Burnley and Leicester - have come under intense pressure, with Liverpool not relenting in their pursuit of a first title since 1990.

Guardiola now needs his team to maintain that focus.

He said: "We must play well, be strong mentally, knowing it will be tough. We focus on the game - how we want to play - and not worry too much.

"If the game is running into problems, (we must) be calm and think about what we have to do. You may have to go crazy in the last five, 10, 15 minutes, but before that we have a plan and follow the plan to win the game - what we have done all season."

Meanwhile, Chris Hughton hailed Bruno as the driving force behind Brighton's Premier League elevation ahead of the Seagulls captain's impending retirement.

The 38-year-old has made more than 200 appearances in seven years at the south coast club, leaving manager Hughton full of praise for the veteran defender.

"To put it simply, Bruno has been outstanding - for the club and also for me personally," said Hughton. "He's been an outstanding player, an outstanding professional and is an outstanding person.

"He was already a legend here when I arrived as manager and what he has done since then has been instrumental in our progress as a football club.

"He has been a key figure in our promotion to the Premier League and in our two seasons at that level too.

"He is 38, playing in the best league in the world, but his performances have belied his age.

"Personally, and on behalf of the football club, I would like to thank Bruno and wish him well for the next chapter."

Bruno's final Brighton outing will prove the denouement of this term's relentless title battle as City and Liverpool slug it out one more time for the league crown.

Brighton revealed they also hope to keep former Espanyol and Valencia full-back Bruno on hand at the Amex Stadium in an off-field capacity in future.

The club will hold talks with the long-serving star in a bid to determine whether that becomes a coaching or an ambassadorial role.

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