Premier League English

Imperative for ‘Manchester City to have laser focus,’ says Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City must not allow other teams’ results in the Premier League title race distract them as they prepare to welcome an “exceptional” Chelsea at the Etihad on Saturday.

Currently second in the table, City are level on points with Arsenal and two behind leaders Liverpool, with a game in hand on both, as his side continue to press on for an unprecedented fourth consecutive English top-flight title and perhaps even another treble. The Cityzens have been on a hot rampage, winning their last 11 matches in all competitions.

“When you arrive at the last eight to 10 games we will see how many teams will be involved (in the title race),” the City manager said on Friday.

“I think these three will be there but the distance between fourth (Tottenham) and fifth (Aston Villa) is also so minor.

“It doesn’t matter if there are two, three or four as long as we win our games. Win our games and do our job – the rest doesn’t matter.”

Chelsea remain in mid-table despite their patchy form this season and Guardiola would be the last to allow his team to take Mauricio Pochettino’s men lightly.

“It’s an exceptional team in all departments, (it’s) one of the toughest games we have until the end of the season,” he said. They’ve been playing really well in the last games. They have everything – intensity and quality.

“Most teams are defined by if they don’t lose the ball and it’s difficult to find a player who loses the ball. They are a really good team. It’s a tough one tomorrow.”

21-year-old City academy graduate Cole Palmer, will be returning to the Etihad Stadium for the first time since he joined Chelsea for 40 million pounds in September. The in-form former City forward has been turning in outstanding performances for the Blues this season.

“Of course (we’re pleased for him),” said Guardiola. “He is a lovely lad and he helped us to achieve what we achieved.

“We didn’t have any doubts about his quality. The way he is playing, he’s a star player. He’s already an exceptional player. He moved on to get the minutes he has. It was just a matter of time and he has shown his quality.”