MANCHESTER. — Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City’s four main English Premiership soccer title rivals all have strong reasons to believe they can win the Premier League. The champions went back to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Manchester United on Super Sunday, leaving them 12 points above their city rivals, and two above Liverpool.
But with only eight points separating the top five and five separating the top four positions Guardiola believes Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal are all big contenders.
Guardiola said: “I think Man City right now and Liverpool, Chelsea, and even Arsenal and Tottenham, I think they have numbers to be champion, not just City. We’re just two points in front.
“Last season we didn’t get points at Anfield, we draw this time. Last season we lost here (against United), but we won. So it’s good, four games against contenders, three away just one at home.
“What is important is that we are consistent, that we play most of the time good, and always I see many things that we can improve.” City have impressed in the last month, scoring 15 goals in their last three games, and after breaking points, wins and goals records last season, there were suggestions this City side could be even better.
However, speaking on Sky Sports, Guardiola says it is still extremely early in the season to be making big judgments on his team. “We are in November. It’s November. It’s a lot of games, we haven’t finished the first round, a lot of things can happen in football.
“Now we can feel good, we made an incredible month, after the international break after we drew at Liverpool, missed a penalty at the end, and we made an incredible performance after this month. We are scoring a lot of goals, make a lot of chances, concede few, and that is rhythm.”
Guardiola was also less than impressed with Raheem Sterling after his showboating antics at the end of Manchester City’s derby victory over Manchester United on Sunday. The England forward was seen performing step-overs in the final seconds while being pursued by Marouane Fellaini and Alexis Sanchez. Guardiola raced onto his pitch at full-time to confront Sterling, with the gesticulating City boss visibly saying: “Pass the ball, pass the ball. Don’t do that.”
Guardiola was quizzed on his conversation with Sterling after City’s 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium, which saw them move two points clear at the top of the Premier League.
“He makes some movement with the legs, we can avoid it,” he said. “But he’s young, and he’s going to improve.”
Guardiola was delighted with the overall performance, however, appauding his side’s composure after got one back. “I like a lot when he played but the best way to defend a result is to keep the ball,” said the 47-year-old.
“We spoke at half-time that we could play better and we were much better with the goal from Aguero after five minutes of the half. “It was difficult, they defended so deep and they are aggressive, they follow man to man. “But after 2-1 we reacted well, we didn’t concede and step by step we regained our game.”
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho has hit out at those choosing to use “stats” to analyse Manchester United’s performance in their 3-1 defeat at rivals Manchester City on Sunday. United’s defeat means they are as far away from City on points as they are to Cardiff City, who are in the relegation zone.
The 3-1 loss also saw United’s Premier League goal difference go negative, while Anthony Martial’s goal from the penalty spot was their only shot on target at the Etihad. But when these facts were put to Mourinho after the match, he said: “I think we are not going to be relegated.
“So, when I analyse the game today, I think the difference was, you can go for stats. That’s the way people that don’t understand football analyse football, is with stats.
“I don’t go for stats, I go for what I felt and I watch in the game and the game was there until minute 80-something.
“So, I consider the performance of my team a performance with mistakes. It’s different than a bad performance. One thing is a bad performance another thing is a performance with mistakes.
“We made mistakes, we were punished by these mistakes, but the performance, the mentality, the togetherness, the belief, the fight until the end was something that we are building and we are not going to lose that because of a defeat.”