Sunday, June 26, 2022

Guardiola vows to remain above United-Chelsea fray

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said he will be watching Sunday’s match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford with a professional interest rather than willing the Londoners to win.

That is despite the fact that a victory for league leaders Chelsea over City’s local rivals will assist Guardiola’s men in their quest to finish in the top four and secure a place in next term’s Champions League.

Guardiola is convinced that the top two spots are already accounted for by Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and that Arsenal, Liverpool, City and United are battling for the other two Champions League places.

“Two teams are already done and now there are four teams –- top teams –- for two positions,” said Guardiola after seeing his side win 3-0 away to Southampton on Saturday.

“Tottenham are so strong and they are not going to drop points. Our problem is that we have dropped a lot of points at home.

“Look at Chelsea and Tottenham, and how few points they have dropped at home. Then look at United and us and where we are,” the Spaniard added.

“If you want to win the Premier League or be there until the end you have to be strong at home and not drop points at home against Southampton and Middlesbrough.

“I’m going to see the game to see United because we play them in 10 days and I want to see how they play in case I can discover something.

“But it’s not my business (who wins). All we have to do is win our games and if we do that we’ll be in the Champions League next season and that is so important for the club.”

– ‘Real final’ –

City’s victory at St Mary’s, which could have been even more one-sided than the score suggests, sent them up to third and gave them a points cushion over Arsenal and United, who both have two games in hand.

“Of course now we play an FA Cup semi-final (against Arsenal) and in 10 days we play a ‘real’ final against United (in the Premier League), so that’s why it was important for our confidence to win, so I’m happy about that,” said Guardiola.

“We played good,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager added.

“In the first half it was not easy to find the right spaces. From a set piece we scored a goal and they had to push up and after that we could get some players between the lines and counter attack and kill the game.”

Guardiola praised his captain, Vincent Kompany, who has missed most of the season through injury but headed in from a corner to score that opening goal, his first since August 2015.

“This season and last we missed him a lot,” the manager said. “The guy has quality, he wins duels, one against one. He has the quality to move quicker, to find passes in small spaces, to help us in set pieces, both offensive and defensive because he’s a real defender.

“So hopefully he can be fit for the rest of the season because he’s an important player for us.”

Guardiola made it clear he wanted Kompany to remain at the Etihad Stadium, saying: “I think there is no doubt about that but the point is that when a guy has been two or three years injured, what can we do?

“Vincent had no injury problems before the last two or three years but since then, a lot. This was only his third or fourth game of the year.”

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