villa thriller | 

Pep Guardiola tells Manchester City stars to ‘just focus on the football game’

City face Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday knowing victory will secure a fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
Pep Guardiola has tried to detract from the pressure of the title race (Adam Davy/PA)

Pep Guardiola has tried to detract from the pressure of the title race (Adam Davy/PA)

By Andy Hampson, PA

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to ignore the pressure of the title race and treat Sunday’s decisive final game like any other.

City host Aston Villa knowing victory will secure their fourth Premier League crown in five seasons.

It’s just a football game, focus on the football game, don’t think of the consequences.

Pep Guardiola

Yet any slip-up could open the door for Liverpool, who trail by just one point, to leapfrog them at the last moment.

The City manager said: “I said to the players it’s just a football game, focus on the football game, don’t think of the consequences, of how happy we will be if we win or how sad we will be if we lose, forget about it.

“It’s just a football game, just think about what you have to do to win against Aston Villa. If you think about it being one more title or one less title – yes this kind of thing is important, everyone knows it – but it’s a football game.

“Do they play with (Ollie) Watkins or (Danny) Ings and Watkins? Does Douglas Luiz play as a holding midfielder or in a three? Will (John) McGinn move outside or not?

“This is what we have to handle tomorrow, these kind of things are what we have to think about if we want to win the game.”

City will get their hands on the Premier League trophy again if they win their final game (Dave Thompson/PA)

City will get their hands on the Premier League trophy again if they win their final game (Dave Thompson/PA)

While City will be the favourites, Guardiola feels it helps his side that they are not historically burdened by a weight of expectation.

He said: “As a club we have not been here many times, so once we are here, should we be anxious or nervous? No, no way.

“Go there and try to enjoy the game, enjoy the moments. We will suffer in moments but if we concede a goal it is, ‘Come on, let’s go, try again, try again’.

“From my little experience this is the best way to approach these situations.”

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is a potential obstacle for City (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is a potential obstacle for City (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Much has been made of the game’s Steven Gerrard sub-plot, with the Villa manager now having the chance to finally deliver a league title for Liverpool having never secured one during his glittering Anfield playing career.

Gerrard himself has played down the significance of his personal associations and Guardiola is not sure they will make much difference either.

“We can make theories but it is just a football game, 11 players (against 11),” he said. “A good manager will try to beat us and we will try to beat them.”

City are boosted by the potential return of defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones, who have made quicker-than-expected recoveries from ankle and thigh injuries respectively.


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