Manchester City’s Premier League title defence will be challenged from multiple directions, according to Pep Guardiola – who claimed Manchester United and Chelsea could still be in the hunt.
City travel to Everton on Wednesday, for a fixture that has been moved forward due to their participation in the EFL Cup final later this month, knowing victory will move them above leaders Liverpool on goal difference.
Jurgen Klopp’s team failed to capitalise on City’s 2-1 loss at Newcastle United last week as they were held to back-to-back 1-1 draws with Leicester City and West Ham, while Guardiola’s men returned to winning ways by seeing off Arsenal 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
That victory edged them two points ahead of Tottenham in third after the Londoners restated their own title claims with battling wins against Watford and Newcastle at Wembley.
But Guardiola feels the amount of points left to play for means other horses could enter the race – casting a particular glance across town to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s resurgent United.
“I never said Tottenham are not there,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“I never put out [of the race] all five or six teams and United is making this run of victories every single week. They will be there to fight for the Premier League.
“We see the table and see the first two or three and say, ‘they are able to be champions’ and we don’t look further than that. If Chelsea win games in a row they will be a contender too to win the Premier League.
“Everybody is there. The gap is not too big. With 39 points to play for, nine or 10 points behind is not too much. Seeing the Premier League now, everybody is ready to take points.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 5, 2019
It amounts to the type of title battle the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach expected when he moved to England, stating City’s 100-point season last time around is something of an outlier.
“I would say it is typical in England, this type of situation. What is not common is what happened last season – a team with 100 points and a lot of distance, 18 games winning,” Guardiola said.
“Normal is what happens now. Every game is tough. You can win and lose every single game.
“Everybody is involved for all the chances to win all the titles, [qualify for] Europe, trying to stay in the Premier League.”
In the case of Everton boss Marco Silva, the fight is to placate an increasingly restless fanbase and remain in a job.
The Merseyside club have won three and lost seven of 12 Premier League games since the start of December and were booed by the Goodison Park crowd after Saturday’s loss to Wolves.
| “Now is not the moment to find excuses. Now it is the moment to find solutions.”
The boss’ verdict on today’s disappointment against Wolves. #EFCmatchday
— Everton (@Everton) February 2, 2019
But Silva has the backing of his midweek opponent.
“The people do not know how difficult it is to create a team. The people believe I buy three or four players as a new manager and everything fits perfectly immediately,” Guardiola added.
“Sometimes it takes time. My advice, if they believe in one project, if they believe in him, they have to move forward with him. No one can ensure the new manager is going to be better.
“It is difficult to create and to build something. You need time. It depends on them, whether they trust or not.”
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