MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is ready for the Premier League title race to go down to the wire, and warned on Friday that Liverpool won’t be thrown off track by their Champions League disaster at Barcelona.
City have dropped just 16 points all season, yet with two matches to play they are still only one ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s team, who lost 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday and face Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers either side of Tuesday’s second leg with Barca at Anfield.
City meanwhile have had the benefit of a clear week in building up to each of their two matches, at home to Leicester City this coming Monday and away at Brighton the following Sunday.
Asked if the deflating loss in Barcelona would derail Liverpool’s bid for the Premier League title, Guardiola said: “I don’t think so.”
“The game on Wednesday was incredibly good. Liverpool were outstanding. Both teams were incredible.
“I don’t think it will affect them, they fought a lot for this season, I think it’s going to the other (final) game. I think it will be not easy at Newcastle but they’ll be well prepared to win there.”
City face a Leicester team who have won six out of nine league matches since Brendan Rodgers was confirmed as their manager on February 26.
That run has kept Monday’s visitors, fresh from a 3-0 win over Arsenal last weekend, in with an outside chance of finishing seventh, which could be enough to qualify for next season’s Europa League.
– Leicester threat –
Rodgers managed a Celtic side who secured two draws against Guardiola’s City in the Champions League group stages in 2016, and Guardiola is wary of the challenge Leicester are likely to pose.
“I think Brendan has shown his quality as a manager. In just two months, they are already playing the way he wants to play.
“I saw three of their games and I was really impressed with the way they played. The players know it will be an incredible task for us but of course it’s already a final for us.
“With the fact that it’s our last game at home, hopefully people will come and help us and we do what we have to do, which is win our game.”
Leicester’s realistic chances of finishing seventh will be significantly lower if Wolves were to beat relegated Fulham on Saturday.
But even if Rodgers’ side arrive in Manchester will little to play for, Guardiola has dismissed the idea that they will switch off.
“That’s not going to happen,” he insisted. “The Leicester players will not come here for their holidays.”
Guardiola will go into Monday’s match without playmaker Kevin de Bruyne, who has a hamstring injury, while midfielder Fernandinho is still recovering from a knee problem.