EPL

Pep Guardiola refuses to look beyond vital Crystal Palace clash

By Sports Desk April 05, 2024

Pep Guardiola is refusing to look beyond Manchester City’s visit to Crystal Palace despite Real Madrid looming as a Selhurst Park slip-up would leave their Premier League title hopes in tatters.

A win for City in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off will move them level on points with leaders Liverpool, who head to Old Trafford for a clash with arch rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

Guardiola accepts a draw or defeat would all but end their aim of claiming a fourth-successive title so even the prospect of a trip to the Spanish capital on Tuesday evening will not divert his attention.

City are also defending their Champions League crown and take on Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the quarter-final first leg but Guardiola will only start thinking about the clash after facing Palace.

“Honestly, if we were 18 points in front of second in the Premier League, I would have two eyes on Madrid but it’s not the case,” Guardiola said.

“We’re third, not far away from the top of the Premier League, but if we drop points it will be almost impossible.

“We have to win that game and after that we will have more time, not for recovery, but to prepare. So I have not had much time to see Real Madrid.

“When we have been fighting for nine or 10 months for the Premier League title, why should I be distracted now from this important game against Palace, when the distance is so close?”

Guardiola is mulling over whether to restore Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne to his starting line-up in south London after benching the pair in the 4-1 midweek victory over Aston Villa.

City will be favourites to beat a side that have claimed just two points from their last 12 and sit 14th in the table but Palace hit back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium in mid-December.

Guardiola, who could welcome back goalkeeper Ederson this weekend but will be continue to be without defenders Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, is aware he cannot take the threat of the Eagles lightly if City are to remain in contention for a trophy he continues to prize above all others.

“I love it,” he said. “Of the domestic trophies, it is the most important. I’m not going to say the Champions League is not nice, of course it is.

“We have it and know how it feels in our soul and we are at peace, for the fact we’ve got it. But (the Premier League) is just the nicest because it’s more difficult, there are more games, every week, two or three games.

“The Champions League, of course, is important, but it depends on something you perhaps can’t control.

“Both are incredibly important, but the Premier League proves a lot. It shows the mentality of the teams, being there all the time for many, many years.

“From my education at home or whatever, every day you have to do the best – that means a lot to me personally.”

Phil Foden took his tally for the season to 14 goals with a hat-trick against top-four hopefuls Villa and Guardiola admitted he could be in the running for Premier League player of the season.

“He’s a contender like many others, many players play a good season,” Guardiola added. “He can be a contender for sure.”

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