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Pep plays down prospect of derby-day title win

China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-14 07:49
David Silva celebrates scoring Manchester City's second goal in its 2-0 English Premier League victory at Stoke City on Monday. [Photo/Agencies]

MANCHESTER - Pep Guardiola on Monday tried to play down growing excitement among Manchester City supporters over the possibility of winning the Premier League title when it faces bitter rival United in the derby early next month.

Jose Mourinho's side visits Etihad Stadium on April 7 for a game which could see City make mathematically certain of being crowned champion following its 2-0 victory at Stoke on Monday.

First, City must win its visit to mid-table Everton and, should it do so, Guardiola will win his first league title in English soccer with a win over his old rival Mourinho.

"Everybody is always asking this question," said Guardiola. "But the important thing is on March 12, we have 81 points. That is a lot of points.

"We want to be champion. We need three wins, but we are able to do it with two (if City beats United).

"But before and after United, we have the (Champions League) quarterfinals, and at the moment that is the most important thing to focus on.

"I understand for the fans, but the important thing is to be champion. When and where, it doesn't matter."

City also has a strong chance of winning Europe's premier prize for the first time in its history.

The draw for the Champions League last eight takes place on Friday and Guardiola will watch it live, along with his first-team squad, at its warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, where City flew immediately following the Stoke win.

City's stunning exit from the FA Cup, at the hands of third-tier Wigan, leaves it without a game until the clash with Everton on the final day of the month.

"We are going to be together and make three training sessions in five days," said Guardiola.

"We are going to have lunch together, dinner, some people are playing golf. But the weather conditions are better than here - the forecast in Manchester is rain, rain, rain!

"So we are going to go there and do the training we should be doing here. Last season we were there and it was good and that's why we're going to the airport now."

City's victory at Stoke came courtesy of two goals from David Silva, whose season has been disrupted because of a family crisis, following the premature birth of his son Mateo in December.

The City forward, who has been returning to Spain frequently to visit his family, admitted after his superb performance against Stoke that soccer has been a welcome relief.

"I think when I play football I forget everything, it's good for me to play," said the 32-year-old.

"I know in my private life it is not a very happy moment. But my son is fighting, you know, and I am very happy because he is getting stronger, getting better."

City captain Vincent Kompany offered support to Silva, who was given permission to miss the Abu Dhabi trip to spend time in Spain.

"David just explained his story ... it puts everything into perspective for us," said the defender.

"It is a massive boost and relief to be able to play this game like we do. It gives us perspective and brings a moment of joy into our lives."

City, meanwhile, can look forward to a memorable finale to the season given its current form and dominance over the Premier League, although its demanding manager is clearly not in the mood to permit his players to take it easy.

"To motivate my players is really easy, we are not champion yet, and when we are, we must carry on, to focus on the next goals which is the Champions League quarterfinals," said Guardiola.

"There are always goals to pursue, statistics to overcome, and we will carry on and then work towards next season. There is always room for improvement and that is what we will do."

Agence France - presse

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