Pep Guardiola and his team are approaching their Premier League games like cup finals. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

The only thing more colourful than Pep Guardiola’s jumper yesterday was his language as the Manchester City manager became embroiled in a bizarre hoax by defender Benjamin Mendy.

If Guardiola had hoped to maintain a low profile before City’s title challenge faces another serious test at home to Chelsea tomorrow, it did not really go according to plan.

First, the Spaniard turned up wearing a striking top with multi-coloured stripes that may have had viewers watching his pre-match press conference on Sky Sports adjusting their sets.

Then he dropped the F-word live on air, forcing the broadcaster to apologise for his language.

The cause of Guardiola’s outburst was a question about Mendy’s whereabouts after the French defender, who has been in Barcelona recovering from his latest knee problem, posted a video on Instagram claiming to be at Hong Kong International Airport.

‘Hong Kong?’ exclaimed an incredulous Guardiola. ‘I didn’t know. F***! Is he? Lucky guy.

‘He said he was going to Paris for one day, but Hong Kong? That’s a long way. I have to understand Instagram. I don’t know. Yesterday he was in Barcelona. Hong Kong, is that OK? Definitely not!’

Mendy, a notorious prankster on social media, later tweeted to confirm that it was a wind-up and he is still in Barcelona. The incident provided a moment of levity in what is developing into an intense title race — one that has seen City take over from Liverpool at the top of the table on goal difference after wins over Arsenal and Everton in the past week.

It concludes with another difficult game against a Chelsea side that beat City 2-0 in December at Stamford Bridge. The two clubs also meet in the Carabao Cup final in two weeks’ time and Guardiola sees little difference between the games.

‘It’s a final for us, and we have to play it in that way,’ he said. ‘It’s Chelsea. They have a chance to be champions, even if people don’t believe it. They have midfielders who are the best in the world, a good keeper and experienced defenders.’

They also have a new striker, Gonzalo Higuain, who scored his first Premier League goals in a 5-0 win over Huddersfield last week.

‘Massive striker,’ added Guardiola. ‘He’s a guy who does not need too much to score goals.’

This is the last time City will play after Liverpool before their title rivals get to go second in a month of Sunday games in March.

‘A few days ago, the gap was seven points and now we’re in this position,’ said Guardiola. ‘Liverpool are exceptional. I don’t have the feeling (Jurgen) Klopp, (Virgil) Van Dijk, (Mo) Salah and Sadio (Mane) feel pressure. I think they’ll be there until the end.’

Daily Mail