Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said there are “many things to play for” this season despite a 2-1 loss at home to rivals United on Saturday, leaving them 14 points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool.
City travel to Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday but are already assured a first-place finish in Group C, while they’re set to meet Oxford United in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Guardiola spoke to reporters after the loss at home to United and assured his side will fight on regardless of Liverpool’s form, with the Reds still yet to lose a domestic game this term:
“We have to try to continue, there are many things to play for. It’s difficult because the opponents are on an incredible run winning 15 games out of 16.
“It is not time to think about that. We have to think about what we have to do and think about the next game. Doesn’t matter if six, eight or 14 points we have to continue. We are a fantastic team.”
The Citizens suffered their fourth defeat of the season—their second at the Etihad Stadium—in the Manchester derby, and their chances of defending the league crown look slim approaching the midway point.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored inside half an hour to give United a commanding lead at the Etihad on Saturday, with Nicolas Otamendi heading in a late consolation for the hosts, via Sky Sports (UK viewers only):
City have now dropped as many points this season as they did over the course of the entire 2018-19 campaign, with several key injuries seemingly taking their toll on the team.
Central defender Aymeric Laporte and winger Leroy Sane have each been sidelined with long-term injuries, while Sergio Aguero sat out Saturday’s game through injury and was missed up front.
OptaJoe highlighted this as a new low in Guardiola’s career in terms of starts to a campaign:
The Catalan coach continued to highlight positives in the loss to United:
“Yes, we lost 1-2 but I congratulate my team, my players were fantastic, we are a fantastic team.
“We concede three or four counter attacks in the first half, they were clinical but I am more than happy for our performance. We pushed them, we created chances. In general I am happy with the performance. No regrets.
“I know who we are as a team. I am delighted to work with these guys. We tried and we tried in the second half. Unfortunate we scored late and could not turn the result.”
Some may consider Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a lesser tactical test considering the scrutiny he’s received as United manager, but ESPN’s Mark Ogden noted the Norwegian has a knack against the big names:
City are also set to kick off their FA Cup defence in the third round at home to Port Vale on January 4.
Liverpool will take little for granted until their first top-flight title since 1990 has been delivered, though the Citizens look to be falling away in their defence.