Pep Guardiola hailed the efforts of Liverpool for pushing Manchester City to new heights in the battle for the Premier League title.

City are one point ahead of the Reds heading into their final match of the season against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium, with Jurgen Klopp's side at home to Wolves on Sunday.

Victory over Steven Gerrard's Villa would ensure a fourth Premier League title of the Guardiola era in just five years at City, with only Alex Ferguson winning more (13).

It would also make the Spaniard the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

Guardiola believes his side would not have achieved what they have without the competition from Liverpool, who remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple.

"We would not achieve what we have without them [Liverpool]," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "We have our opponent who brings you to the limits, otherwise complacency arrives.

"The players are not stupid, I do not need to tell them how good they are. They play against them and see them on TV and I said, 'wow, if we want to be there, we have to do it'.

"I think it is quite similar like they should think about us."

Guardiola heaped praise on his players as they stand on the brink of back-to-back titles.

"Incredible, top human quality players and persons," he added. "Without that, no tactics, no ideas. Nothing, nothing, top-quality players.

"All the other managers have amazing ideas and tactics. The praise in the football world is so suspicious. Every time you give good praise to me, I do not believe you. Not for one second, I'm so suspicious.

"Behind that is the players, the quality, the talent, the effort. When we are good is when we try to altogether follow one idea, but my ideas are not more special than the other ones.

"I have found a lot of incredibly talented managers in the Championship, or the Premier League who do not have success. Do you know why? They do not have the good players that we have, it is as simple as that."

Victory over Villa would secure City's eighth top-flight title, the outright fifth-most in history since its inception in 1888, while it will be their sixth Premier League title (outright second-most after Manchester United’s 13).

Pep Guardiola would be an ideal coach for Brazil as his style of play would benefit the likes of Neymar and Vinicius Junior, according to Julio Cesar. 

Brazil are on the hunt for a new boss with Tite leaving the role after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and Guardiola has been linked with the position.

The Catalan is under contract at Manchester City, who he could lead to Premier League glory on Sunday, until June 2023 but has previously expressed a desire to move into international management.

Julio Cesar thinks he would be a great fit for the Selecao as his possession-based approach would help Brazil's most talented players.

"He has all the qualities to do it. He is one of the best in the world, his style of play is very Brazilian," Julio Cesar told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. 

"Everyone knows that Brazilian players love to keep the ball; the majority of them also play in Europe and they are learning to play better on the pitch.  

"We have so much quality on the Brazilian national team: Neymar, Raphinha, [Lucas] Paqueta, Vinicius Junior. All these players are very talented and having a manager like Guardiola would give these players the opportunity of playing the ball more. 

"Every player would love to work with a manager like him. It wouldn't be a bad idea, although we also have really good managers in Brazil. He is a big name in the football world and it wouldn't be a bad thing having him representing our national side. I like the idea." 

Tite's only previous World Cup campaign with Brazil ended in a quarter-final defeat to Belgium in Russia four years ago. 

He steered the Selecao to Copa America glory in 2019 but they were unable to defend their title two years later, with Argentina defeating them in the final. 

Julio Cesar already believes Tite will leave a lasting legacy but has no doubt that leading Brazil to glory in Qatar would achieve him an even higher status. 

"This is what the World Cup gets you, it will level you up. If you can bring the World Cup to Brazil, you can leave with your head held high, you have done your job," he said. 

"He won the Copa America in 2019, he got to the final again against Argentina. He did very well so far, even in the [World Cup] qualifiers he got first place ahead of Argentina.

"He can leave with his head held high, but winning a World Cup with Brazil will take him to the top." 

Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

Saving the best for last

Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

 

What it would mean for Guardiola

The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

A one-sided rivalry

It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

 

Doubling up on the last day?

City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

Pep Guardiola has no intention of selling Ilkay Gundogan, even if "all the great Twitter accounts" have suggested he could leave Manchester City.

Gundogan has been at the centre of online debate following claims he had held talks with Real Madrid, seemingly focused around a reported image of the midfielder heading to the Spanish capital on a private flight.

Model Sara Benamira revealed on her Instagram she and Gundogan had actually been married in Copenhagen during his time out of the country.

Guardiola was aware of that private ceremony but had no knowledge of any desire on the part of either Gundogan or the club for a transfer.

The former Borussia Dortmund man has a year remaining on his City contract.

"He asked me permission to go to Denmark or I don't know [where] to get married," Guardiola told reporters. "I congratulate him.

"If you ask me personally, the club, I want Ilkay next season here. There is no idea, no intention that next season he cannot be here.

"After, if he wants to leave – because... I don't know, he's getting married, a new experience or whatever – as a club we don't know it.

"All the great Twitter accounts, the guys like you, said he's going to leave, so congratulations, but I didn't know it. Maybe you have more info than me or the club, but this is the situation right now."

In the more immediate future, Guardiola has been boosted by the potential return of defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones for Sunday's Premier League match against Aston Villa, where City will win the title with three points.

The England pair had previously been ruled out for the rest of the season but could now feature after a "partial" training session on Thursday.

"I have incredible doctors," a smiling Guardiola said on Friday.

Pep Guardiola has defended his claim "everybody in this country supports Liverpool", suggesting Manchester City's modern success does not yet compare to the Anfield giants.

Guardiola became the centre of much attention following City's 5-0 win over Newcastle United earlier this month when he gave a remarkable post-match interview to beIN SPORTS.

The Catalan coach responded to discussion of City reclaiming control of the Premier League title race by saying: "One week ago, we were [already] one point in front. But everybody in this country supports Liverpool, the media, everyone."

City are again one point ahead of Liverpool heading into the season's final round of fixtures, certain to win the title if they can beat Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola was asked to explain his comments and suggested they had been lost in translation, although he then suggested Liverpool were indeed favoured in England due to their history.

"I'm pretty sure my English is not good enough after four or five years, so maybe I don't explain well," he told a news conference.

"All I said was when you arrive to win titles, the teams with more tradition, more history winning leagues and winning Champions Leagues, they have more supporters through the media.

"It happens in Spain with Barcelona and Madrid, it happens in Germany with Bayern Munich, it happens in Italy with Milan, Inter and the other ones.

"We are new outsiders in the last decade. We were not there in that moment.

"Of course people don't want Liverpool winning, like us. If you win too much, they don't want you to win again. Of course the Liverpool fans want to win it, other fans don't want them to win it, they prefer us.

"I'm not saying all the country is doing that, but in general, because they are a team with history in terms of titles.

"If you want to deny it, deny it; maybe I'm wrong. But if you compare all the countries around the world, there are two or three or four teams who the people support more than the other ones because they have been there more times.

"Here it's the same. People support more United than the other ones, Liverpool than the other ones, Arsenal when they were there, because they have a lot of history.

"We are new in this position. How many times have we been in this position in our history? How many times? The Aguero moment, Brighton [in 2019], Paul Dickov to be promoted [in 1999] and then... I don't know? It's not much. It's new for us."

Guardiola has gone some way to establishing City among the elite, on the brink of an eighth top-flight title, the fifth-most of all time.

A sixth Premier League triumph – and fourth in five seasons, all under Guardiola – would be the outright second-most behind Manchester United (13).

United's Alex Ferguson (13) alone would rank ahead of Guardiola for championships in the Premier League era, while he could move clear of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho (both three) for the most top-flight successes by a non-British manager.

The omens are good, too, given City have lost only one of their past 13 final-day matches (to Norwich City in 2012-13) and Guardiola has won five from five, the best 100 per cent record in Premier League history.

Pep Guardiola has learned winning titles is not as life-changing as he expected and told potential first-time Premier League champion Jack Grealish his happiness should be the priority.

Guardiola's Manchester City head into the final day of the league season a point ahead of Liverpool, knowing victory against Aston Villa – £100million man Grealish's boyhood club – would clinch the championship.

Unlike for Grealish, though, this is far from Guardiola's first title triumph, winning LaLiga nine times with Barcelona as a player and coach, then adding a hat-trick of Bundesliga crowns at Bayern Munich.

Guardiola is closing on a fourth Premier League success in six years since joining City, but he revealed two days before the Villa match how his perspective of such victories was changed by his first as a player.

"Before winning the first title, I thought it would be the most incredible moment in our lives," Guardiola told a news conference. "But the day after you feel, 'oh, this is all it's about?'

"Because the day after, the sun rises and people start to demand more and more. The satisfaction is there, of course, but after one, two, three days, it's already forgotten. It has to be like that.

"That's why it's nice, because there's a lot of work behind and we have incredible focus to try to do it, but at the end it does not change many lives winning or losing.

"We are going to try. This is the most important thing, to be ourselves and do what we have to do to be proud after the game.

"I think people forgot most of the time: football is a game. A game means unpredictable things, luck, unlucky, a thousand things you cannot control.

"The way we play and the quality of the players we have, we are most of the time in the position to win, because we play to win and are most of the time closer, closer, closer, but there are aspects you cannot control, even if you want to.

"It's a game, football is a game. Something can happen – that's why you have to put it in the right measure.

"We are going to try. Of course, we have incredible desire to win; if we can do it, we will be incredibly happy. But after one or two or three days of celebration with our people, we'll continue and start again."

It was a theme Guardiola returned to later when asked what victory might mean to Grealish, who left Villa last year having won only a Championship play-off final.

"For him, who has never won a Premier League, it must be so exciting, so important, but now he will realise what I said before," his manager said. "The day after, 'oh, everything was about that?'

"He will be happy he has won, but my advice to him is try to be happy as much as possible playing football. This is more important than winning titles. Be happy doing your job.

"After two or three days, you feel, 'all the effort for that?' Okay, it's good, the name in your curriculum vitae, but no more than that.

"What's important is if he feels happy here. If he is comfortable, getting better, getting better, that's the most important thing."

In an entertaining meeting with the media, it was put to Guardiola that this would be a special title for him, too, as the first he has won on his own terms at the Etihad Stadium.

Twice his City were made champions by defeats for rivals Manchester United, while their final-day 2018-19 celebrations came after a win away at Brighton and Hove Albion.

But Guardiola was not convinced, sarcastically replying: "Oh, so nice, so nice. Yeah, good. I would prefer winning two days ago, in Wolves for example."

Pep Guardiola described Liverpool as "one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life" and is thrilled the Premier League title race is heading for a "fair" conclusion.

Guardiola's Manchester City side fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday, with Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty to clinch all three points.

It means City hold a four-point lead over the quadruple-chasing Reds, who still have two games to play and will ensure the race for the title goes to the wire as long as they avoid defeat against Southampton on Tuesday – albeit a draw would mean Jurgen Klopp's side would need a seven-goal swing to usurp their rivals.

For Guardiola, the scenario heading into a dramatic final week of the domestic season is perfect.

"I said to the players after the game that we could not expect any different against a team fighting to win the Premier League that is one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life," said the City boss.

"Against this Liverpool you cannot win the league a month ago or two or three fixtures ago. You have to fight until the end.

"I said [to the players] today not to be said because you gave a really good performance and it is fair against this opponent to arrive on the final day to decide who is the best, because both teams are too good."

Jack Grealish was the man to spark City's second-half revival at the London Stadium and for the attacking midfielder there is an intriguing plot twist given the Citizens face Aston Villa on Sunday, the team he left for the Etihad Stadium in a £100million deal.

The England midfielder says there can be no time for sentiment as he aims to earn a first piece of major silverware with City.

"I can't wait and it's going to be a great day. It just had to be against Aston Villa, didn't it? It couldn't have been any other game," Grealish said.

"But that doesn't matter. It's not about me and it's not about who we're playing against. It's about the team and it's about the club. We are going to go out there and try to win and get all three points.

"It's going to be different for me. I've never had that before – I've never had a game on the last day to win a title."

Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City fans to "go to the streets" ahead of the Premier League leaders' final game of the season against Aston Villa.

City found themselves 2-0 down to West Ham at half-time on Sunday but fought back to draw 2-2.

However, City missed a chance to win it late on when Riyad Mahrez saw a penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski. It is only the second penalty the Algeria international has missed during his time with the club, having also squandered an opportunity from 12 yards against Liverpool in October 2018.

Fabianski, meanwhile, has saved 10 Premier League penalties, with only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) stopping more spot-kicks in the competition.

That draw lifts City four points above Liverpool, who won the FA Cup on Saturday by beating Chelsea on penalties, with one match left to play.

It comes next Sunday, against a Liverpool great, as Steven Gerrard takes his Aston Villa team to the Etihad Stadium. The Reds, meanwhile, face Southampton on Tuesday and then host Wolves in their final game.

Should Southampton claim an unlikely win, the title will be City's, but any other result means it is heading to the last day - something that Guardiola is relishing.

"Next week our stadium will be sold out, will give them our lives and they will give theirs, all together," he told a news conference.

"To do it is an incredible privilege, after many years, incredible. To have our chance with our people, to win one game to be champions. I'm looking forward to it.

"If they lose or win it depends on us, do the most perfect game we possibly can do, all the people, all blue people in Manchester, go to the streets and go to the stadium because they know we're going to give everything to win that game and they will be so proud."

City trailed by two or more goals at half-time for the 53rd time in the Premier League, with this only the second time they have avoided defeat from such a position (D2 L51), while they remain unbeaten away from home in the top flight since losing their opening match away to Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are not experiencing a personality crisis as he aimed a startling put-down at former Manchester United stars Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov.

The City manager was riled by criticism from Evra and Berbatov, now both working as pundits, after City surrendered a winning position to go out at Real Madrid's hands in the Champions League semi-finals.

Evra claimed Guardiola "can’t train people with personality", while Berbatov offered a response that was not far from Guardiola's own assessment, albeit saying City "had to be more concentrated and focused" in the closing moments.

There was also criticism from former Milan and Madrid star Clarence Seedorf, who said City lacked the necessary "mentality" to come through such a test, comparing them to Paris Saint-Germain.

City were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the closing minutes against Madrid on May 4, only to concede a quickfire double to Rodrygo, before Karim Benzema hit a penalty winner in extra time.

It was a dizzying turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu, but City have responded by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 and picking apart Wolves 5-1 to reassert their Premier League supremacy over Champions League finalists Liverpool.

Guardiola denies City have any issues with their attitude, saying the approach that brought the back-to-back heavy league wins was "the same character that lost to Madrid in the last two or three minutes".

"The former players like Dimitar Berbatov, Clarence Seedorf, Patrice Evra... these type of people they were there," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's clash with West Ham on Sunday.

"I played against them and I didn't see this kind of personality when we destroyed them in the Champions League final against United."

That was an apparent reference to Guardiola's Barcelona beating United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final, when Evra and Berbatov both featured on the losing team at the Stadio Olimpico as the Catalan giants sealed a treble. The teams also met at the same stage in 2011, but Berbatov was not involved in that game, which the Blaugrana won 3-1.

"[They say] we don't have personality because we concede in the last minutes, and after the last two games we have personality," Guardiola added.

"Personality is what we have done in the last five years. Maybe Liverpool is going to win all four titles or just one. Am I going to say they don't have personality or that they had a bad season?

"Of course they have and of course they are good, but sometimes in football, it happens.

"It is football, you cannot control it. When you always arrive in the latter stages, semi-finals, finals, it is incredible. This for me, because we arrive until the end, playing a lot of games, this is the most important thing."

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."

Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have joined Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

De Bruyne, who won the award in 2019-20 despite Manchester City missing out on the title to Liverpool that season, is enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the club.

He netted four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, taking him to 19 in all competitions.

Salah is the only other past winner to be up for the award, having scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists (both league-high tallies) in another outstanding campaign as Liverpool battle City for the title.

Fellow Reds star Alexander-Arnold is also on the shortlist after racking up 12 assists in 31 appearances, as is Tottenham forward Son, who scored his 21st league goal of the campaign in Spurs' 3-0 win over Arsenal on Thursday.

Despite hitting 18 and 15 league goals respectively this season, Manchester United and Spurs strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane are among the highest-profile players to miss out being nominated.

The other players on the eight-man shortlist are City defender Joao Cancelo, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen is one of just three Premier League players to record double figures for goals and assists this season (both 10, along with Salah and Chelsea's Mason Mount).

Meanwhile, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are in contention to be named Manager of the Season at the end of another enthralling title race between their teams.

Guardiola has already won the award on three occasions (in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21), the same amount as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Only Alex Ferguson, with 11, has won it more often.

Klopp won the award when he led Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019-20, while the other three nominees all manage sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Brentford's Thomas Frank is among them after leading the Bees to safety in their first top-flight season since 1946-47, as is Patrick Viera after an impressive first campaign with Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United's Eddie Howe is the final boss on the five-man shortlist, after the Magpies became the first side to go winless through their first 14 games in a Premier League campaign and avoid relegation (three had done so and gone down - Swindon Town in 1993-94, QPR in 2012-13, and Sheffield United in 2020-21).

Public votes will contribute towards deciding the winner of each award, with Premier League club captains also getting a vote on the players' award and a "panel of football experts" helping to choose the winning manager.

Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Pep Guardiola says any extension to his Manchester City contract will not be agreed until next year, insisting now is not the time to discuss his future.

City require just four points from their final two games to secure the fourth Premier League title of Guardiola's reign at the Etihad Stadium after thrashing Wolves 5-1 on Wednesday.

Title rivals Liverpool extended manager Jurgen Klopp's contract until 2026 last month, sparking speculation City could look to do the same with Guardiola, whose current deal expires at the end of next season.

But Guardiola says any new contract will have to wait until next year, even though he revealed he would be happy to stay for another decade if he was certain City would continue to perform at their current level.

"If I extend the contract, it will be at the end of the next season," he told Sky Sports. "Before then, it's not going to happen. 

"It's many years and I have to see how the team and ourselves, how we are together. Knowing it, I would stay 10 more years. 

"But we have to take time for that, absolutely. It's not time, absolutely in this season, or during the next season."

City look increasingly likely to wrap up another domestic title after becoming the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by at least three goals.

However, their European woes continued when they fell to a stunning 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals earlier in May.

Guardiola will have gone 12 years without winning European football's biggest prize by the time he gets another opportunity to win the competition, but insists continental success will not dictate his future.

Asked whether he would only stay if City win the Champions League next term, he responded: "Absolutely not. We compete, for the margins, extremely well in the Champions League. 

"In my life, we won the Champions League in Barcelona with seven players who came from the academy. Nothing changed my life. I was happy for that.

"Yes, I'm disappointed, we wanted to play the final, but it's not going to change my future or my past. The reason why we came here to England, it's already done. We wanted to do it, we did it."

Pep Guardiola labelled Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City's "key man" after the midfielder scored four in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves, while he expressed his excitement to manage Erling Haaland next season.

City ran riot at Molineux to restore their three-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit, and now need just four points from their final two games to win a second consecutive league title.

De Bruyne became the fourth different player to score four goals for City in a Premier League match (after Edin Dzeko, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero – who did so on three occasions), as City bolstered their goal difference, which could yet prove to be crucial in the title race.

City are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws), and have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.

Guardiola's men also became the first team to have five or more shots on target while scoring each in a Premier League game since Liverpool in December 2019 (a 5-2 win against Everton), thanks in large part to De Bruyne's incredible display of finishing.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the win, Guardiola hailed the midfielder as "incredible" after he reached 19 goals for the season in all competitions, saying he had been City's most important player in the run-in.

"The way he's playing in the last two or three months, especially in the Premier League, has been outstanding. In the Champions League as well," he said. "He has been our key man in the last part of the season. 

"It's not just what he creates and the goals and everything, I'm happy because he always had a sense for the assists and was so generous, always thinking what's best for the team.

"But we always tried to push him, [saying] 'you have to win games, you have to score goals', and this year I think is his most prolific season in this sense."

City were widely criticised after falling to a 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals last week, but responded with consecutive thrashings of Newcastle United and Wolves.

Guardiola was keen to praise his team's character after they produced a dominant performance on their first away trip since Madrid.

"Did you have any doubts after what these guys have done in the last five years? They have personality, they have character, they have everything," he added. 

"We were in control, we started really well, scored a goal, and one moment where we didn't defend the transition properly we conceded a goal [Leander Dendoncker's equaliser]. After, we found the goal quick and it helped us a lot."

Although City have already hit 94 Premier League goals this season, their attack will be further bolstered after the announcement that Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland has agreed a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said he was excited to work with the Norway star, who has hit 85 goals in all competitions since joining Dortmund in January 2020, and believes the 21-year-old will have no problem adapting in England.

"It's a decision for the club to make a good signing for the future, he'll come for many, many years, hopefully. I'm pretty sure he'll adapt perfectly to our team, but it will be next season," he added on Haaland.

"I'm excited in my job and of course, I like to work with good players, because the players make you a good manager. 

"Of course, he's an incredible young talent with a perfect age, and I'm pretty sure we're going to help him settle as quickly as possible."

Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.

In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola's team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.

The Belgian's hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.

De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.

Guardiola's men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner. 

Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto's cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.

The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.

The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri's weak clearance after 60 minutes. 

De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.

What does it mean? City remain in pole position

De Bruyne's brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.

With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola's men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.

Devastating De Bruyne stars

De Bruyne's four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City's all-important advantage over Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.

City extend record away run

The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club's league history.

However, Dendoncker's goal prevented Guardiola's side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.

What's next?

City continue their push for the title when they travel to West Ham on Sunday, while Wolves host relegated Norwich City on the same day.

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