August 2, 2021

‘I don’t want to send any messages’ – Guardiola silent on title talk after latest Man City win

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The Citizens romped to victory at Palace’s expense and leapfrogged Leicester and Liverpool into second place

Pep Guardiola refused to be drawn into talk of the Premier League title despite closing to within two points of the summit thanks to Manchester City‘s victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday. 

City recorded their fifth consecutive league win with a 4-0 victory to move above both Leicester City and Liverpool in the standings. 

John Stones hit once in each half for the hosts, while Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling also netted in an emphatic win at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola’s charges have not lost in the top flight since November 21, and would go ahead of current leaders Manchester United if they win their game in hand. 

But Pep is not thinking about his side’s title aspirations with less than half of the 2020-21 season completed. 

“I don’t want to send any messages. It is Aston Villa on Wednesday. it is one game at a time,” Guardiola, who turns 50 on Monday, told BBC Sport.

“A few weeks ago we were points behind Liverpool and we win a few games and that’s what we have to do. Now I will drink a good glass of wine and then think about Aston Villa.

“Birthday plans? I’m up early tomorrow – yes I will drink something, alone because the family is away but it’s a good present for the players.”

While the City manager was happy with what he saw across the pitch he singled out the contribution of Stones, who has been criticised in past years for his performances at the back.

“Stones’ revival? That belongs to him,” Guardiola said. “If there’s one guy who deserves it, it is John. He has struggled for many reasons in the past, it belongs to him how he overcame this.

“It’s just minutes for him. He deserves to play, he doesn’t make mistakes and he’s created a good partnership with Ruben Dias.”

Pep added to Sky Sports: “We didn’t concede, we had to be patient and Palace defended really well. We were so stable, it is an important victory.

“When we handle top teams we are fortunate to have this quality. In the final third when Kevin De Bruyne makes the assist, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling put it in the top corner, and John Stones was on fire in the box. It’s easy for me when you have these players.

“We try to play the same way we have in the last few seasons and in the back four we don’t make mistakes. Last year we made a lot.

“If there is one player I am more than pleased that everything is going well, it’s John Stones. He is playing because he deserves it.”