Pep Guardiola will not watch “unstoppable” Liverpool’s game with Manchester United this weekend because the gap between the Premier League leaders and his Manchester City side is too big.
Guardiola insists his City players still deserve credit for the way they have played this season, even though they go into their clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday trailing 14 points behind Liverpool.
He admits that he is now interested only in securing a top-four finish and chasing honours in three cup competitions rather than events at Anfield involving Liverpool.
“We are far away, they are unstoppable in those terms. We’ve dropped points, we conceded and didn’t win games,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“This game is about the results and I’m glad we continue to attack quite well but the reality is the reality. They’ve won 20 of 21 games and they’d be leading all the leagues around the world.
“It would be nice to focus on Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace, and then Tuesday we have Sheffield United.
“Being so far away means it’s not interesting to look at what Liverpool do. It’s better to focus on what we can do for the rest of the season in the Premier League and other competitions.”
In the past eight years, Chelsea, twice, Leicester and Manchester United have all failed to finish in the top four in a title defence.
But City’s 13-point cushion over fifth-placed United makes Champions League football next season look a near certainty for Guardiola.
– ‘We are fighting’ –
“The target was catch Leicester and now it’s to maintain this, always there is motivation to play good,” Guardiola said.
“I think the team show this season that still we are going to do it. What happened to previous champions? They gave up and didn’t quality for the Champions League.
“Still we are there fighting, far away but the opponent is exceptional. I’m so proud, now we are in this position we need to qualify as quickly as possible for the top four. That’s the important target.”
City’s league difficulties have led to speculation that Guardiola’s long-term commitment to the club might be in question, with the Catalan currently under contract only until the end of next season.
There has been talk about the possibility of Guardiola staying beyond that period but, regardless of what happens after the end of his current deal, the City manager is adamant that he will be back for next season.
“I’m staying unless they sack me -– 100 percent unless they don’t like it,” he said.
“I’ve said it many times. Not because we won the last two games, I’m sorry, I’m going to stay.
“I enjoy working with them, I like it. But even if it was going bad I’m not going anywhere. No manager wins all the time, we’ve lost some games so what can we do to get better? It’s simple.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola has been boosted by the news that defender Aymeric Laporte, out since August with a knee injury, expects to be back for next weekend’s FA Cup tie with Fulham and the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Manchester United three days later.