Liverpool the priority for Guardiola as City close on title

Liverpool (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claimed his focus is on their two-legged Champions League quarter-final tie with Liverpool even though they could be crowned Premier League champions against Manchester United next weekend.

City eased to a 3-1 win over Everton on Saturday courtesy of goals from Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling and were good value for their victory even though Yannick Bolasie pulled a goal back for the Toffees.

City’s focus will now switch to the first leg of their Champions League tie against Liverpool on Wednesday before a mouthwatering opportunity to wrap up the title against the Red Devils at the Etihad Stadium.

And Guardiola preferred to look at the bigger picture and refused to indulge in what it would mean to beat United to clinch the league.

“I understand people are going to talk about United but now all the decisions are about Liverpool,” Guardiola said.

“We have now we are closer than ever. We have one game to win. If we are not able to win, we have six more chances. We are so, so close and so happy with the performance.

“Now it is one more game and we will be champions. For the fans it is significant. It is special. It is important we win – no matter where. Of course the most important thing is these two games

“We have to go to Anfield with good feelings. Now we have a few days to prepare for this game.”

For Guardiola’s entertainers to do it against Jose Mourinho’s side would provide an appropriate signature moment and possibly the standout memory of a team with the potential to emerge as one of English football’s greatest.

The football City have played in this campaign has been simply breathless in its quality and the current 16-point advantage over second-placed United is in no way flattering.

Before this game, City had not played since a 2-0 win over Stoke on March 12 and Guardiola had been concerned whether his side would be a little rusty.

– First win over Everton –

“We were a long time without being together,” Guardiola explained. “And I didn’t want to play with seven, eight, nine players going to play Wednesday without four weeks playing together.

“We needed to play together to find our pace, our rhythm. We controlled the game and it was a huge victory. It was the first time as a manager I was able to beat Everton.”

Sane volleyed City ahead, Jesus added a second with a header before Sterling added a third just before half-time when he steered home David Silva’s cross.

Bolasie, who had headed over a 1-0 down, pulled a goal back in the second half when he arrowed home a low shot but City had taken their foot off the gas by that stage.

Those Everton supporters that remained at the final whistle applauded City’s players off the pitch which was telling of the quality of their performance and pleased Guardiola.

“Maybe because we are going to play against Liverpool, I don’t know!” added the City boss. “But thank you so much. I didn’t know it but they give credit to what the players have done.

“The first is for our fans but the people who love football enjoy how we play, that is satisfaction. Last season I applauded them in the 4-0.”

Everton boss Sam Allardyce acknowledged Guardiola’s City side were one of the best teams he has ever come against during his managerial career.

“Have I come up against better? Man Utd I think and probably Arsenal. After that, no,” he said.

“Manchester City are a top quality team, you have to admire a team that especially in the first half were too good for you. As much as the lads tried it was something we couldn’t cope with.

“We did as much as we could, tried as much as we could and I think that has been the same for every team bar Liverpool.”

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