Pep Guardiola recognises Manchester City are now on the brink of title glory but wants to put aside thoughts of clinching it against Manchester United – for now.
City now know victory in next weekend’s derby at the Etihad Stadium will secure the Premier League crown after overpowering Everton 3-1 on Saturday.
But before they can plan for that game, City take on Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Anfield on Wednesday and Guardiola wants to put his energies into that.
Manchester City outplayed Everton (Nigel French/Empics)
The City boss said: “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.
“I understand the people are talking about United now but all the decisions I am going to take is thinking about Liverpool – the game before United and after United. That is what it is.”
City effectively secured victory against a lacklustre Everton as they opened up a 3-0 lead in the first half.
Goals from Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus in the first 12 minutes put City on their way before Raheem Sterling added a third before the break.
It was an emphatic display from City who, despite the proximity of Wednesday’s game, fielded a formidable side.
Guardiola said: “After three weeks (without a game) I didn’t want maybe seven, eight or nine players who are going to play on Wednesday to go four weeks without playing together.
“We needed to be together to find the pace, to find our rhythm, the way we want to play for our massive, massive two games against Liverpool.”
A number of Everton fans left early but many of those that stayed to the end applauded City’s players off the field, so impressive had their performance been.
Guardiola said: “Maybe (it was) because we are going to play against Liverpool!
“But thank you so much. For people who love football to enjoy how we play, that is satisfaction. Last season I applauded them after the 4-0 (defeat).”
Everton manager Sam Allardyce admitted after his side’s first-half performance it was a matter of damage-limitation against City’s attacking threat.
“You are 2-0 down so early on and then you try to go to get back in the game because you panic a little bit and we opened ourselves up too much and conceded a third from the counter-attack,” said Allardyce, whose side managed a consolation through Yannick Bolasie.
“At 2-0 we became dishevelled and lost doing things as a team together. We put that right in the second half.
“As the game went on Yannick gave us a lift with the goal but in the end they are such a wonderful side for me the second half was making sure we didn’t get beat by any more.
“You can’t knock the players for how hard they tried today and how well they recovered in the second half and you can only admire the quality of a team 16 points ahead.”
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