With historical past and Haaland on their facet, Man City are nonetheless title favourites


Manchester City are eight factors behind within the Premier League title race, however Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions are nonetheless convincing favourites to elevate the trophy for the fifth time in six years. Why? As a result of they have been there and performed it, and even with Arsenal setting the tempo on the prime and Manchester United starting to breathe down their necks, they’re anticipated to do it once more.

Guardiola does not just like the suggestion that City are nonetheless favourites and has, often, discovered himself speaking up Arsenal’s probabilities. Talking at a information convention on Wednesday forward of Thursday’s recreation at Chelsea, he mentioned there won’t be something they will do to catch Mikel Arteta’s facet.

“We have to reduce the gap by playing good and winning games,” he mentioned. “They could do more than 100 points if they keep this average and [if that happens] we will not catch them. We have to be almost perfect and hope they drop points.”

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“Perfect” appears like an enormous ask, however Guardiola — and Arteta, for that matter — shall be properly conscious that City have performed it earlier than. When the enterprise finish of the season begins in January and the video games come thick and quick, they’ve traditionally put their foot down and rapidly motored towards silverware.

Final season, City performed 18 league video games between Jan. 1 and the final weekend on Could 22. They misplaced simply as soon as. The yr earlier than, they started 2021 with 18 straight wins in all competitions. Two years earlier, in the course of the 2018-19 season, they performed 31 video games in the course of the second half of the marketing campaign and gained 29. On every event it was sufficient to win the title.

Guardiola, although, is refusing to get forward of himself. “I said when we were able to do it, these big runs, we never thought about it,” he mentioned Wednesday. “We just thought of the next game. Every game is difficult. We focus on the next game and see what we have to do.”

City’s now customary new yr cost shall be powerful this time after the fixture listing threw up a difficult run of video games.

After going through Chelsea at Stamford Bridge within the league Thursday, they face the identical opposition on the Etihad within the FA Cup third spherical on Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET, stream dwell on ESPN+). They’ve additionally bought Manchester United at Previous Trafford on Jan. 14, Tottenham Hotspur at house on Jan. 19, Tottenham away on Feb. 5 after which Arsenal on the Emirates on Feb. 15. It is a run that might come to outline City’s season, and all earlier than the Champions League restarts with a visit to RB Leipzig on Feb. 22 within the spherical of 16.

“It’s good,” Guardiola mentioned. “Listen, you play all the teams. We try to improve and get better. We go there to win all the games. A lot will happen and many things will happen for all clubs and teams [during the next six weeks]. We’ll see.”

Even with a squad packed filled with title expertise, Guardiola nonetheless has points to resolve. City have taken only one level from their previous two Premier League house video games, and talking after the 1-1 draw with Everton on New Yr’s Eve, the 51-year-old supervisor steered a few of his gamers have been affected by a post-World Cup hangover. Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker — all often regulars — have but to begin a recreation for the reason that restart.

“It is difficult to choose for me because always top players are not playing,” Guardiola mentioned. “Mainly lately, perhaps as I am older, I look at the body language in the training sessions and everything. You cannot play good when the body language is not correct. Sometimes I pick them for the body language, for how happy they look and how they are there. This is one of my main decisions when I choose the lineup.

“With the skills, I know how good they are, and they know what we want to do. But the body language depends on them, and sometimes they are not good.”

One constructive for Guardiola, nevertheless, is that Erling Haaland has picked up the place he left off. In three video games for the reason that World Cup, the Norway worldwide has scored 4 targets to take his tally for the season to 21 within the league and 27 in all competitions. Two extra in opposition to Chelsea on Thursday and Haaland could have already reached the mark that noticed Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-Min share final season’s Golden Boot — simply in 21 fewer video games.

Arteta has bought Arsenal followers believing whereas Erik ten Hag has introduced some optimism again to Previous Trafford. Newcastle United, in the meantime, have misplaced solely as soon as all season and have the most effective defensive document within the league.

Regardless of all that, although, City are nonetheless favourites to win the title once more. Historical past is on their facet. Oh, and Haaland.

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