Guardiola explains half-time plea that doubled reasons for Man City advantage

Pep Guardiola sitting on the Manchester City bench

Pep Guardiola insisted that no one should doubt Manchester City and their ability to bounce back after taking control in the Premier League title race – both in terms of points and goal difference.

Manchester City moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League with the same number of games remaining by sweeping aside Newcastle United in a 5-0 win. After Liverpool slipped up in a draw with Tottenham Hotspur the night before, Guardiola’s side have edged closer to retaining their title.

Raheem Sterling scored the first and last goals of the game, either side of contributions from Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and Phil Foden.

Consequently, the pursuit of the Premier League title remains in the hands of Manchester City. In fact, their gap over Liverpool is more comfortable than it was at the start of the weekend.

It means the mood in the blue half of Manchester is much more positive than it was in midweek, following their dramatic Champions League elimination to Real Madrid.

But Guardiola, who told Sky Sports it was a “perfect afternoon”, was never in doubt that his side would bounce back.

He said: “With what this team have done, do you have any doubt?

“We are five years doing this every three days. If some people doubted us they don’t know this team.

“It’s one of the best groups I ever trained in my life.”

They are now potentially on course to retain their Premier League crown. Not only are they now three points above their only challengers, they have also ensured they now have a superior goal difference to Liverpool.

Guardiola was aware of the importance of that aspect all along, and made it clear to his players.

He revealed: “We talked about that at half-time – the importance of the win. It could have been 3-1 [with a big Newcastle chance] and after we scored two goals at the end. There’s a big difference.”

Guardiola addresses defensive shortage with Foden joke

One blow for City was the withdrawal of Ruben Dias at half-time. It leaves them with a potential defensive shortage ahead of the run-in.

Guardiola said: “We have 13.5 players because Nathan [Ake] is not in perfect condition. I’m not worried because if Phil Foden has to play as central defender, he will play there.”

But when asked if he really meant that about the attacking midfielder, Guardiola said with a laugh: “No.”

As the final push looms, the manager concluded: “Three points, nine points to play for, four ahead on goal difference. Another final on Wednesday. ”

That so-called ‘final’ will be their penultimate away match of the season, against Wolves. Their other remaining league games will be against West Ham away and Aston Villa at home.

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