EPL

Guardiola lauds 'exceptional' Man City and Liverpool ahead of Chelsea clash

By Sports Desk January 14, 2022

Pep Guardiola insisted consistency is the only reason for Manchester City's sizeable lead at the Premier League summit, as he hailed the "exceptional" nature of his side and their long-time rivals Liverpool.

City host Chelsea on Saturday as first take on second, though Guardiola's side currently hold a 10-point advantage, with Liverpool 11 behind in third place.

Following their 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, City are looking to secure the Premier League double over Chelsea for the fourth time, previously doing so in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2017-18.

They have won their last 11 Premier League games, their fifth such run of 11 or more consecutive victories in the competition.

However, despite his team's healthy lead, Guardiola does not believe Chelsea or Liverpool have dropped off. Instead, he credits City with finding another level of consistency.

"The Premier League is the strongest," he told reporters. 

"We are here now because we were consistent, especially in the toughest month in December, when there were many games and how we overcame the tough situations we had in the squad, problems with injuries and COVID.

"We got results playing really good, but also not good, like against Arsenal how we were able to win. We were consistent. This is the reason why, no secrets.

"My opinion about Liverpool and Chelsea does not change one bit. They are more than excellent teams. One is the champion of Europe, the other is the biggest rival in the last two, three, four seasons.

"Football changes quickly. What you have to do is rise and increase a bit our football compared to the last two teams we've played. We'll have to do it tomorrow to compete."

Guardiola then enthused about the continued level of performance of both City and Liverpool, who have had a thrilling rivalry in recent seasons, adding: "I have to say it was because Liverpool and City were exceptional, not because the others were wrong.

"[Manchester] United were close I remember one year with [Jose] Mourinho, and last season, but we were exceptional. What Liverpool and City have done in the last four years has never been seen before in this country.

"Antonio Conte with Chelsea started a little bit in my first season here but after that Liverpool and City made a step, and I think the other opponents did well, Chelsea, United, Tottenham, but Liverpool and City were out of this world.

"I'm proud, after six years together, five years of success, that in January we are competing in every single game. That is an incredible credit to these exceptional players. My job is to put my words behind them, tell them the truth, that's what I need to continue."

Guardiola did, however, hit out at the suggestion City had been fortunate with COVID-19, something which Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel both claimed.

"It's a situation that's all around the world. We've had injuries, COVID," said Guardiola, who was one of 21 members of City's squad to miss last week's FA Cup win over Swindon Town after testing positive.

"We had a lot of people with COVID. At the beginning of the season we've had a lot of incredibly tough injuries for our players. They believe we were lucky - okay, we were lucky. The thing is the pandemic is all around the world, we are exposed to the virus, we are not the exception.

"If they believe this is the reason why... maybe. Sometimes it's the money we have, sometimes it's COVID."

Saturday's game is just the second between City and Chelsea in the Premier League in which they are the top two teams. The other such match finished 1-1 in 2015.

After beating Liverpool 4-0 in July 2020, and Chelsea 1-0 earlier this season, City are looking to become the fourth English club to win three consecutive meetings with reigning European champions in all competitions, after Notts County (1982), Tottenham Hotspur (1983-84) and Everton (1984-85).

Related items

  • Leeds strike deal for Salzburg's USMNT star Brenden Aaronson as Marsch brings in familiar face Leeds strike deal for Salzburg's USMNT star Brenden Aaronson as Marsch brings in familiar face

    Leeds United have agreed a deal to sign Salzburg's Brenden Aaronson after Jesse Marsch swooped on his former club for the United States midfielder.

    Reports have indicated Aaronson will cost Leeds in the region of £24.7million (€29m) when the transfer officially goes through on July 1.

    He has committed to a five-year contract and will strengthen the Leeds midfield after the Premier League side avoided relegation on the final day of the season thanks to a win at Brentford.

    Former Philadelphia Union player Aaronson, 21, has earned 18 caps for the USA and scored five goals for his country.

    He joined Salzburg in January 2021, fresh from being named in the MLS Best XI for the previous season, and had a key role as head coach Marsch's team wrapped up a Bundesliga and cup double.

    While Marsch moved on to RB Leipzig at the end of that season and later arrived at Leeds, Aaronson stayed on in Salzburg and helped Matthias Jaissle's side reach the last-16 stage of the Champions League.

    Salzburg also landed another domestic double, and Aaronson believes the time has come to move on to bigger things.

    He told Salzburg's website: "I can barely believe that it was only a year and a half I spent playing for FC Red Bull Salzburg.

    "This big step from my homeland in the US to Europe was made an extremely easy one by everyone at the club, from the players, coaches and all the staff, and I had a fantastic time here. To come to Salzburg was totally the best decision I could have made!

    "After our strong performance in the Champions League and winning the double, it's the perfect time for me now to move to a new and really big league."

  • Aston Villa agree deal for Sevilla defender Diego Carlos Aston Villa agree deal for Sevilla defender Diego Carlos

    Aston Villa have agreed a deal with Sevilla to sign centre-back Diego Carlos for an undisclosed fee.

    The club confirmed on Thursday the player will travel to England "in the next few hours" to finalise personal terms and undergo a medical, with reports suggesting the fee will be in the region of £26.4million (€31m).

    Diego Carlos would be Villa's second signing in the space of a few days, with a deal also announced earlier this week for Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara, who will soon become a free agent.

    Former Nantes defender Diego Carlos was pursued by Newcastle United for much of the January transfer window – even reportedly handing in a transfer request – but will now link up instead with Steven Gerrard's side, who finished 14th in the Premier League this season.

    The 29-year-old played 136 games for Sevilla since his signing in 2019, winning the Europa League in 2020 when his overhead kick was turned into his own net by then Inter striker Romelu Lukaku for the decisive goal in the final.

    Diego Carlos was also a part of the Brazil team that won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

    A statement on Sevilla's website also confirmed the news, with the Spanish club adding: "Sevilla FC wants to thank the player for his work during all these years in Seville and wishes him the best of luck in his new professional stage."

  • French Open: Swiatek eases past Riske to extend stunning winning run French Open: Swiatek eases past Riske to extend stunning winning run

    Iga Swiatek again showed relentless form to ease past Alison Riske and book her place in the third round of the French Open on Thursday.

    The number one seed stormed to a 6-0 6-2 victory on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, and will now face Danka Kovinic – the latest woman to attempt to halt the WTA Tour's winning machine.

    Chasing her 30th straight win, there was an ominous start from Swiatek, who sealed the first set in just 20 minutes as Riske won just seven points.

    Swiatek was ruthless as she sped through the games, winning all three break points against Riske to get halfway to victory in double quick time.

    The American tried to fight back at the start of the second, but Swiatek seemed to move up a gear every time her opponent was able to win a point, breaking again in the second game.

    Riske reached deuce in the next game, before finally holding serve to get herself on the board to a big cheer from the crowd.

    The world number 43 showed more fight as she held serve again, but Swiatek's power and shot placement was ultimately too much as she motored to victory.

    The 2020 champion has now won 39 matches this year (including Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers), three more than her tally for the entire 2021 season.

    Data Slam: Dominant Swiatek

    Swiatek's win here makes her just the fourth player this century to win 30 or more consecutive matches. She also won 85 per cent of points on her first serve (22 of 26) and did not face any break points.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Swiatek – 23/15
    Riske – 6/14

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Swiatek – 1/1
    Riske – 2/2

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Swiatek – 5/9
    Riske – 0/0

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.