It is not an everyday question that Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola was asked at the press conference before the Premier League top match against leaders Liverpool. Finally, his team took in the past two seasons each of the championship: Would it have been in a defeat with the third championship in a row, then nine points behind?
Guardiolas shrugged. "I do not know," he said. "Experience in sport shows that you have to fight to the end."
The question and above all the answer show that the situation is serious with the English master. City's coach is actually an esthete and not known as a fighter. Unlike his adversary Jurgen Klopp, who, with his unwavering faith, regularly manages to lead his team to wondrous results.
This season, Guardiola's task comes to an end: Six points behind, City is outsider in the title race, his team has to fight back – under difficult conditions. In addition to defender Aymeric Laporte and director David Silva missing against Liverpool also goalkeeper Ederson. The perfectionist Guardiola has to deal with the fact that his team is currently not perfect. The control freak must realize that he does not have the title fight under control.
City seems out of synch
Guardiola will not change his approach. "It was clear from the start that this season is going to be a tough fight with Liverpool," says Spanish journalist Pol Ballus, co-author of the book "Pep's City: The Making of a Super Team," which has just been released in England is. Rather, the coach could even derive motivation from the fact that it will be even more difficult this season to defend the title. In the past two seasons, Liverpool had a comfortable lead in the meantime, but City secured the title.
However, Manchester City is out of time this season:
- The failure of defensive director Laporte into the new year has revealed a weak spot in the billion-dollar squad. In the summer, the club missed to replace Vincent Kompany. Harry Maguire of Leicester City was swapped for almost 90 million euros to Manchester United. That's why midfielder Fernandinho has to hold the defense together at the moment.
- Manchester City is missing in the game forward the power of the past few years. Against low-lying opponents, the team beats one flank after the other, as in the recent narrow victory against Southampton, with moderate success. Also, the lack of precision in the conclusion makes Guardiola worried.
The coach is nervous before traveling to Liverpool. This could also be due to the devastating record: In the Reds Guardiola conceded with City so far three defeats and played once goalless draw.
Klopp threatens to outdo Guardiola in the league
It was this nervousness that drove Guardiola to a statement about Liverpool's Sadio Mane before the top match, in which he credited him with a talent for swallows in addition to his footballing talent. Such psycho-tricks are known from Guardiola's feud with Jose Mourinho, but not from the duel with Klopp, which is actually characterized by mutual respect. "It's obvious that he does not handle the situation well, and even when City easily got the title in his second season, he was a bunch of nerves, so it's logical to assume he's even more stressed right now," says Paul Hirst who reports on Manchester City for the British daily The Times.
This was probably the main cause of Klopp's Champions League victory with Liverpool last season, as the Catalans are longing for this title with Manchester City. This season, Klopp threatens to outbid him in the league.
Guardiola is in his fourth season in England, too many are unlikely to come. Only three years he worked for Bayern. Nobody expects that he will end his career in Manchester, Guardiola works strictly project-related. That's because his intense style eventually wears off. Maybe the first signs are just recognizable.