In Brief

Pressure is slowly building on Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Champions are already 11 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool

Manchester City travel to Burnley on Tuesday night in a match they must win if they’re to keep alive their faint hope of regaining the Premier League title.

Already 11 points shy of Liverpool and lying third behind Leicester City, the Sky Blues have been a pale imitation of the side that struck fear into the hearts of their rivals last season.

The visit to Turf Moor is therefore a must-win game for Pep Guardiola’s side but they face a physical Burnley team who lie tenth in the table.

Two-time defending champions City were held to a 2-2 draw at Newcastle on Saturday but despite the dropping of more points, Guardiola’s message to his squad is to ignore the doom-mongers. 

“I like the way we play at Newcastle,” he told reporters. “I am very satisfied. We made enough chances and could have done a bit better, but we had enough shots and if people say we are not at our best or this or that, it is not my concern - we have to focus on Burnley. I think we are working well.” 

In denial

Not everyone agrees with Guardiola’s assertion, including the stats, which show that City have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last seven games. 

Writing in the Daily Mail, Ian Herbert says that the sulky defensiveness of Guardiola at Monday’s press conference was “excruciating”. 

The normally affable Spaniard was “prickly” in answering questions about why City have spluttered of late and there was even a hint of the denial that Arsene Wenger mastered in his final years at Arsenal, refusing to admit the blindingly obvious such as a deteriorating defence.

The absence this season of Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte have revealed weaknesses in the City defence but Guardiola dismissed the idea that he needed to open his cheque book next month. 

“I don’t want any players in January,” he said before appearing to contradict himself. “We are happy with our defence… we are not good enough; we improve.”

Sarcastic City

According to the Daily Mail, journalists didn’t know if Guardiola was being sarcastic and “silence fell several times as the room waited for elaboration that never came”.

City are a long way from being a club in crisis like Arsenal or neighbours Manchester United but the pressure is slowly beginning to build on Guardiola. 

It could increase should his side lose to those two clubs in the coming fortnight, and the visit of Leicester to the Etihad on 21 December will be another test for the Spaniard.

Keep calm and carry on is his message, but defeat at Burnley will sew panic among Man City fans.

Burnley vs. Man City kicks off at 8.15pm and is live on Amazon Prime Video.

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Today’s back pages 

Lionel Messi makes Ballon d’Or history and Mauricio Pochettino is open to offers

Midweek Premier League fixtures 

Tuesday 3 December
  • Crystal Palace vs. AFC Bournemouth (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 
  • Burnley vs. Manchester City (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)
Wednesday 4 December 
  • Chelsea vs. Aston Villa (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 
  • Leicester City vs. Watford (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)  
  • Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Southampton vs. Norwich City (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. West Ham United (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)   
  • Liverpool vs. Everton (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)  
Thursday 5 December 
  • Sheffield United vs. Newcastle United (7.30pm, live on Amazon Prime Video)
  • Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (8.15pm, live on Amazon Prime Video) 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Start your trial today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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