EPL

Guardiola focused on West Ham 'final' as Man City edge closer to Premier League title

By Sports Desk May 13, 2022

Pep Guardiola acknowledged a win over West Ham would put Manchester City on the brink of the Premier League title, telling his team not to be distracted by speculation over his future.

City need just four points from a trip to West Ham and a home encounter with Aston Villa to win their fourth league title under the former Barcelona boss, while three points could be enough after Guardiola's men opened up a significant goal-difference advantage over Liverpool with a 5-1 win at Wolves.

The defending champions became the first team in English top-flight history to win five successive games by three goals or more with that victory, in which Kevin De Bruyne became the fourth different City player to hit four goals in a Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Speaking on the day City revealed a statue of Aguero at the Etihad Stadium on the 10th anniversary of his famous title-winning goal against QPR, Guardiola said he would not mind a repeat of that incredible 2011-12 triumph, but he said nothing could compare to City's first Premier League title win.

He also described Sunday's trip to West Ham as a "final", where a win would put his side on the brink of the title.

"It can happen if it finishes that way, why not?" Guardiola said. "But it will be incomparable. The first time is always the first time; even if we score in the 93rd minute and 20 seconds, it will be the second time.

"The first time is always special in everything we do in our lives. Arriving in this moment, it's important to finish well and try to win.

"We need four points, six points to finish as champion, and I think everybody knows with a win in West Ham it will be almost, almost done, with the goal difference and many things.

"It's absolutely a final, as it was at Wolves, where we performed incredibly well, and we have to try to do it again."

City are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League games, winning eight and drawing two, and have not lost on any of their last 12 Premier League meetings with the Hammers (10 wins, two draws).

Guardiola's team have suffered several injuries to key defenders in recent weeks, with John Stones, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while Aymeric Laporte was substituted during the second half at Molineux.

Although the City boss said his team were lucky not to have suffered these injuries earlier in the season, he said he trusted his players to cope in two vital end-of-season contests.

"I said many times if we'd had to handle with these absences for many, many games, months, we'd be in big trouble, with a big problem," he added.

"For one or two games, the players will do their best, even players not playing in their [normal] position. The concentration, the focus when you play in that position is higher, and like we saw against Wolves, they can do it."

Guardiola's own future has been the subject of much speculation of late, with the Spaniard telling Sky Sports on Thursday that it was "not time" to discuss a new contract with City.

With Liverpool extending Jurgen Klopp's contract to run until 2026 last month, speculation abounded over whether Guardiola would follow suit, but he stressed he is only focused on ending the season well.

"If I don't know what's going to happen in the next two games, imagine trying to figure out what's going to happen in the future!" he told a news conference.

"All of you when you ask me that question – 'What's going to happen?' – my answer is always the same: 'I don't know.' I'd love to say we're going to do well in the next years, but I don't know.

"Things in football change so quickly. When you believe or think it's sorted, it's good, it's in control, it gives you a good punch in your face. At the same time, when everything looks like a disaster, it's drama, a nightmare, one win can change everything.

"Before it was just Wolves, now it's just West Ham in my mind. It's 11 months of work to arrive in this moment. We cannot be distracted by anything else but trying to win the games."

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    – The Mirror is reporting 20-year-old Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is a target for Manchester United, with talks already believed to have taken place over his transfer.

    – Juventus have offered Paul Pogba, who will be available on a free transfer when his United deal expires, a three-year-deal and a €7.5million annual salary, according to Goal.

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