Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Guardiola plays down prospect of United title party

Reuters, STOKE-ON-TRENT, England

Manchester City’s David Silva, left, scores past Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland, right, in their Premier League match in Stoke-on-Trent, England, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Manchester City have the tantalizing prospect of claiming the English Premier League crown with a home win over archrivals Manchester United, but while the fans would relish such a unique moment, Pep Guardiola wants to keep such a scenario out of his mind.

City, who have a 16-point lead over second-placed United with eight games remaining, first need to beat Everton at Goodison Park on March 31 if they are to head into the Manchester derby on April 7 with the title within reach.

The team’s supporters certainly had the idea of rubbing salt into United’s wounds with a party at the Etihad Stadium as they sang several songs about archrivals United and their manager Jose Mourinho during Monday’s 2-0 win at Stoke City, but Guardiola was quick to emphasize that the derby comes between two legs of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals against an opponent to be decided in Friday’s draw.

“We want to be [Premier League] champions... but, believe me, before and after United we have [the Champions League] quarter-finals and at that moment it is the most important thing, focusing on the quarter-finals,” Guardiola said. “I understand for the fans, OK, but the important thing is to be champions. When, where, it doesn’t matter.”

Skipper Vincent Kompany, who won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2011-2012 and 2013-2014, certainly understands the emotion that would be generated by winning the title by beating United.

“Everybody on the ‘Blue’ side of Manchester knows it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kompany said. “We have one more game before United and then we’ll see, [but] steady, it won’t be handed to us. It’s that time of year — every single win brings you one step closer to your goal.”

City left for the airport after the Stoke game with a break in the club owner’s homeland awaiting them.

“Now we have three weeks off, we go to Abu Dhabi and will come back strong. It is a tough winter for everybody, so we are off straight away and we look forward to the weather,” Guardiola said. “To be champions is tough, it’s complicated. Our club does not have a history of a lot of titles. As soon as possible will be better, but now we can be relaxed, the players go away with their international teams.”

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