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Pep Guardiola says repeat of Manchester City's first-half performance against Aston Villa would see them relegated

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has criticised his Manchester City players for their first-half performance in Saturday's 3-0 victory over Aston Villa.

The Premier League champions scored three times in the second period to defeat Villa and move to within three points of Liverpool in top spot.

They struggled to create clear-cut chance before the break, though, with Dean Smith's side comfortably containing the hosts at the Etihad Stadium.

And Guardiola says his team's display in the first 45 minutes was of the level of a relegation contender.

"Six days ago we were eight points [behind Liverpool]; now we are three," Guardiola said in his post-match press conference.

"I am not concerned about the table. I am concerned about the way we played.

"If we play the level we played in the second half, we can be there at the end of the season I am sure of that.

"If we play the way we did in the first half, we will be in the relegation positions far away from the leaders of the table. That is my view. Not just this season but all the time."

Guardiola was also full of praise for Viilla captain Jack Grealish, who impressed despite his side's three-goal defeat.

"He is incredible, incredible player, top player," he added. "I am happy for the fact he is an Aston Villa player and he got offers to move on but decided to stay there in the Championship.

"I like that they were promoted to the Premier League and [he] defends his club. He is a talented player - fast in the final third, passes, always creates something. He's an exceptional player but too expensive for Manchester City!"

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