Pep Guardiola has hailed Manchester City’s robust defence of the Premier League title as one of his greatest triumphs in management.
City are two victories away from lifting the trophy again, starting with Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium tonight.
Clawing back a seven-point deficit on Liverpool and winning 12 straight games following January’s defeat at Newcastle has provided Guardiola with moments to cherish.
‘Arriving at this stage, two games left with 92 points, after 100 points last season… being there, that is the most satisfaction I’ve had as a manager,’ Guardiola said.
‘It’s not easy, honestly. In my career as a manager, I played against incredible sides. There are two that were “wow”. One is Barcelona with Luis Enrique, with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in front. The other is this Liverpool.
‘I think they’re the best two sides I’ve faced as a manager. That’s why being here, with it in our hands, fighting against them until the end, is one of the biggest achievements.
‘I would not say that 100 points was bad and that we are not satisfied with what we did last season. I’m not going to say that. But at the same time, we were seven points behind this year. You give credit for the titles and how huge our rival is.’
Guardiola admitted that City suffered a significant slump in performance as well as results over Christmas — but claimed that he realised why they dropped off.
They lost against Crystal Palace at home before then struggling with tonight’s opponents Leicester during a game in which Fabian Delph was sent off. He has played just once in the league since and is set to depart this summer.
‘We were not playing at the same intensity as usual, but you can understand that,’ he added. ‘I didn’t expect to get the points we have this season so far after what we did last season. Normally, the tendency for human beings is to relax a little bit.
‘But the reason we were seven behind at that moment is because Liverpool were unstoppable.
‘The personality is when it goes wrong and how they react in bad moments, how they stand up in the game and after a big defeat. In two seasons, we did it. We react well to knockouts in our faces.’
One significant blow came via VAR in the Champions League. The stoppage-time drama in the quarter-final second leg against Tottenham could have derailed City’s attempt to become the first team in a decade to clinch consecutive titles.
‘At that moment we were so sad,’ Guardiola said. ‘The Saturday after Europe was a tough day against an incredible team in Tottenham. Then after going to Old Trafford and Burnley, where everyone thought we’d drop points. We didn’t drop points. That is not the manager or the staff. That’s the personality of the players. They will be ready. Maybe we can lose but I don’t think we’ll drop the attention of what they have to do.’Daily Mail