Pep Guardiola warns Manchester City players to be at their best during run-in

Pep Guardiola File Photo
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City side they will need to be at their best as they approach the business end of the season.

City are well on course for a fourth Premier League title in five seasons and can extend their lead over second-placed Liverpool to 12 points – albeit having played two games more – with victory over Brentford on Wednesday.

They are also among the favourites for the Champions League and face Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their last-16 tie next week.

City claimed a comfortable victory over Fulham on Saturday

Manchester City claimed a comfortable victory over Fulham on Saturday (Martin Rickett/PA)

Yet manager Guardiola, whose side are also through to the FA Cup fifth round, is taking nothing for granted with four months of the campaign still to play.

The Spaniard said: “It’s a long time until the big prizes. There are many games we have to do but arrive at the important part of the season.

“We know how many points we have to win because Liverpool will lose few, few points. They’ve shown that in the last seasons. We have to be ready.

“The Champions League is here and the next round of the FA Cup will be soon. There are a lot of difficult games.

“I saw Sporting Lisbon and we will have to prepare well because I was really impressed with what they did and in the Premier League, as we saw against Southampton, every game is difficult.”

Guardiola was pleased with how his side performed on their return to action from their winter break as they beat Championship leaders Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

He said: “We had an incredible January in terms of games and rest. The players came back really well last week before Fulham, and then they played really well against Fulham in terms of coming back to our principles, not being lazy, not being soft.”

In his continuing drive for success, Guardiola has pinpointed one area where he feels his side can still improve – set-pieces.

City’s John Stones (centre) scored from a corner against Fulham

City’s John Stones (centre) scored from a corner against Fulham (Martin Rickett/PA)

The City boss feels progress has been made in this area since Carlos Vicens stepped up from the under-18s to join the first-team coaching set-up last summer, but he is still looking for better.

Guardiola said: “It’s the best season offensively in terms of corners and free-kicks so far. They are doing an incredible job in that department.

“They are so consistent, so clear and still I have the feeling that we can do even better.

“We have to improve in our takers. I think Kevin (De Bruyne), Gundo (Ilkay Gundogan), Riyad (Mahrez), Phil (Foden) have to improve a little bit to put the ball in the right spot, because I think we can be dangerous in that position because of our central defenders and Rodri and Dinho (Fernandinho), when he plays. We are strong in this department.”

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