Pep Guardiola: Premier League title race will go down to the wire
Man City could replace Liverpool at the top with a win at Everton
Everton vs. Manchester City
- When: Wednesday 6 February
- Where: Goodison Park, Liverpool
- Kick-off time: 7.45pm
- TV channel: no live broadcast in the UK
Manchester City travel to Everton tonight in the knowledge that a win will take them back to the top of the Premier League table for the first time since the start of December.
The Sky Blues trail Liverpool by three points but a win at Goodison Park would lift them above the Reds on goal difference, albeit after playing a game more than their rivals.
“Three or four days ago we were already done, the champs were Liverpool and now we can be leading,” said a rueful Pep Guardiola when asked about the title race.
“What I’m more concerned [about] is [that] we never forget who we are as a team, doing what we have to do. That’s what I want to watch and after we [will] see about the results, the table.”
Runners and riders
Man City manager Guardiola also believes that it would be premature to consider it a two-horse title race given that Tottenham are only five points off the pace and a resurgent Manchester United are coming up fast on the outside.
“There are 39 points to play and it is not too much if you are nine or ten behind,” he said. “I never said Tottenham are not there. And [Manchester] United are making this run of victories every single week and they will be there.
“Now we see the table and see the first two or three and we don’t look further than that. Chelsea [in fourth] can win games in a row and be a contender.”
What will be crucial in determining the outcome of the race is mental strength. In that respect City have a priceless advantage over Liverpool and Tottenham, neither of whom have won a Premier League title.
Even Man Utd have been without one for six years. It’s how players handle the pressure between now and May that will decide who lifts the trophy.
“We try to be calm,” said Guardiola. “There will be surprises and it will be tough for teams to win every game.”
The bookmakers are backing the Sky Blues. Guardiola’s men are installed as the new favourites following Liverpool’s failure to win their last two matches. But the Spaniard is playing down that development and believes it will go down to the wire.
“I’m pretty sure the winner will be [decided in] the last fixture or the last two, I’m sure of that,” he said.
February is often the destroyer of title dreams (Arsenal, in particular, saw many a promising season collapse this month) and Guardiola thinks that what happens in the next three weeks will be important in the context of the season.
“When I was abroad – and before I came here – everyone talked about December,” he said. “After Boxing Day was finished and I saw the schedule [I] said, ‘but this is worse – even worse’. February is tougher than December.”
Explaining that it was because of a combination of weather and fixtures – particularly the resumption of European competition – Guardiola said: “When you arrive in March, from my experience, the days are longer, your training sessions are in better conditions, the sun is here, you see the end of the season is closer.
“But we are not, right now, in that position because this month is terrible in terms of every game being a final.”
Premier League fixtures and TV guide
Wednesday 6 February
- Everton vs. Manchester City (7.45pm, no live broadcast in the UK)
Saturday 9 February (3pm unless stated)
- Fulham vs. Manchester United (12.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Crystal Palace vs. West Ham United
- Huddersfield Town vs. Arsenal
- Liverpool vs. AFC Bournemouth
- Southampton vs. Cardiff City
- Watford vs. Everton
- Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Burnley (5.30pm, live on BT Sport)
Sunday 10 February
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City (1.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Manchester City vs. Chelsea (4pm, live on Sky Sports)
Monday 11th February
- Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Newcastle United (8pm, live on Sky Sports)