Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola made feigned exasperation in the face of familiar questions on the back of his team’s latest Premier League setback.
City were held to a 1-1 draw for a third home league game in succession after Middlesbrough’s Marten de Roon headed home in stoppage time to cancel out Sergio Aguero’s first-half opener on Saturday.
Guardiola’s men dominated before the break, but faded during the second period, as the demands of England’s top flight appeared to catch up with them following Tuesday’s stirring 3-1 Champions League win over Barcelona.
Questions over the toughness and intensity of the Premier League compared to LaLiga and the Bundesliga have been a regular theme of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss’ media briefings since becoming City manager and he tried to land the first blow in his latest encounter with reporters.
“You are going to say it’s the hardest league in the world – every time you are waiting on that,” said the animated 45-year-old.
“I tell you it’s the hardest, you have to be so proud! The Premier League is the most difficult league, are you happy?”
Guardiola added: “I expected it was like this, so defensive and so difficult – for the [playing] environment, for many, many reasons and that’s why I’m so happy to be here to try and handle that situation.
“The only way I can imagine is playing better and to be better in our game, in the end we will improve and we will get better and achieve our targets.”
City have kept just two clean sheets in 11 Premier League matches so far this season and, having fallen behind Liverpool and Chelsea after resounding wins for their title rivals over the weekend, a return to form and fitness for captain Vincent Kompany would be a welcome boost.
The centre-back has been an unused substitute for City’s past three matches after coming off at half-time in the 1-0 EFL Cup loss to Manchester United.
Kompany will now join up with Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad – a development Guardiola believes can be beneficial providing he suffers no further setbacks.
“We pray that he’s available to play, it will be good for him to get minutes,” he said. “Hopefully he will come back fit.
“We stay [training in Manchester] with two or three players of the first team so I just hope they come back safe.”