Monday, May 20, 2019

History is much longer than 10 years – Guardiola feels weight of Liverpool showdown

SoccerNews in English Premier League 2 Jan 2019

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Manchester City’s history of achievement is dwarfed by Liverpool’s at the elite level, according to Pep Guardiola – a factor that could loom over Thursday’s crunch Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side would take them 10 points clear of champions City at the summit and in prime position to claim their 19th top-flight title.

The most recent of those arrived in 1989-90, with their most recent near-miss coming as runners up in 2013-14.

City triumphed that season and have won three of the previous seven Premier Leagues under the ownership and vast financial muscle of Sheikh Mansour.

The presence of seasoned campaigners with repeated title-winning experience such as Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero may work in Guardiola’s favour against the Reds, but his time with Barcelona and Bayern Munich means he knows how the cherished status of Europe’s elite clubs can act as an intangible driving factor on such occasions.

“I cannot deny the history,” he said. “In terms of [City] competing with the elite in the Premier League, it is the last decade. The history is not 10 years, it’s much more, it’s longer.

“Anfield is Anfield, Old Trafford is Old Trafford and the history and the Champions Leagues [won] are, when the players put the shirt on, what they know they have to defend.

“It’s a question for them [why Liverpool have a title drought] but when I was a little boy I looked at the Premier League from Catalonia. It was always two or three teams, City were not there.

“That is why, when the people from Abu Dhabi took over and all the people working here – [Roberto] Mancini, Manuel [Pellegrini] and now ourselves – we are trying to be in there.

“In the last decade our club is incredible, being in the Champions League, but of course that doesn’t win games. If you don’t win it is not because of the history.

“But the history is there and I know what it means when you go on the biggest stages and you know what you have behind. How do you take a step forward? I have to defend something special.

“Maybe in the next decades the players coming here will feel that. Our target is higher now and that is what I want to try and maintain.”

While City have not
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maintained the phenomenal levels of their 100-point season last time around, with three December defeats handing the title initiative to Liverpool, Guardiola is satisfied to find them in the race and boasting a healthy points total at midway.

“What I didn’t want at the start of the season was to fall down and drop after success. I talked many times with the players,” he explained.

“I know what happened after Chelsea won the league and after Leicester won the league. The year after was tough.

“I was saying that was what we have to avoid and we avoided it. We have a lot of points, we are fighting for the Premier League. When that happens you cannot have regrets, but there is an opponent who did incredibly.”

Liverpool’s form gives them their shot at adding to the history Guardiola so reveres – something he feels could bring a particular type of pressure.

“I can feel what the Liverpool players feel after not winning the Premier League for 29 years. To be there to win the Premier League, I understand,” he added.

“I said to the players, that is the big difficulty, to handle that. That is why in this season we want to maintain being there and do it as far as possible.”

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