Pep Guardiola does not feel the Premier League schedule will have an impact on the title race between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Last season’s champions are four points behind Liverpool but have a chance to exert pressure on the leaders in their next two matches.
City go to Newcastle United on Tuesday with Liverpool hosting Leicester City the following day, and the Reds’ subsequent game at West Ham next Monday comes 24 hours after Guardiola’s men welcome Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium.
While City have been playing catch-up they can now take the initiative, having won their last eight games in all competitions – doing so without conceding a goal in the previous six.
Guardiola, however, does not feel it is relevant whether Liverpool or City play their matches first over the course of the run-in.
“In both situations, playing before or after, we have to win the games or it’s over,” he told reporters.
“Every game is a final, cups are also a final, Burnley [on Saturday in the FA Cup fourth round] was a final. What should we do playing after? We have to win. Before? We have to win. Simple.
“All the teams want to fight for the title and feel the pressure. We have it and we feel it, we have to handle it. So many, many points to play [for] – many, many games – a lot of games in our legs and minds, change competitions day by day.
“Believe me we don’t think about that, don’t get distracted from what we have to do. Same against Burnley, imagine what Newcastle will do in the game and focus on what we have to do. That’s the only way to be consistent and try to win every game.”
RB: “We were disappointed (to go out of the @EmiratesFACup) but we have to concentrate on a very, very difficult game. When you play against @ManCity, you have to forget and make sure you do the right things on the pitch.” #NUFC pic.twitter.com/0mwjWNWplU
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 28, 2019
Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle have used a defensive approach in recent Premier League clashes with City, but Guardiola suggested those tactics suit his side.
“Newcastle play quite similar to Burnley, the setup will be quite similar,” he said. “Of course every team is different with the setup and in our experience with Newcastle in the last two seasons against my colleague it’s always tough – 0-1 there, 3-1 here – so it was tight.
“It will happen tomorrow as they defend really well but also at the same time I feel we attack better against this type of defence. We control their counter-attacks better and we concede few set pieces and we attack more fluently.”
The boss knows it’s going to be tough tomorrow night.
How are you feeling about #NEWMCI?
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 28, 2019
Benitez is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing his Newcastle side, who are 17th in the Premier League and were knocked out of the FA Cup at home to Watford on Saturday.
“If you analyse the way they can play, they have three or four of the fastest players in the Premier League,” Benitez said.
“They won the title because they’re a very good team. They have everything – but we’ll try to use our strengths. I’m confident that we can do well but at the same time, we have to do everything perfect to have a chance.”
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