• Guardiola’s City are looking to avenge three consecutive defeats to Chelsea, including in the Champions League final
Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City face a much tougher task to win the Premier League title this season, but believes his players must rise to the challenge. The champions travel to Chelsea today three points behind the Blues, Liverpool and Manchester United at the top of the table.
Guardiola’s men are also looking to avenge three consecutive defeats to Chelsea towards the end of last season, including in the Champions League final. Chelsea’s fortunes have been transformed since Thomas Tuchel took charge in January and Guardiola said the German adds to an already stellar cast of players and coaches in the English top-flght.
“I always had the feeling the next year is harder than the one before,” Guardiola said. “Definitely the amount of top, top quality, players, teams, managers. It’s an incredible challenge for us. Accept the challenge and go for it. I think it’s a big compliment for the Premier League — it has to be so proud for the fantastic league we have. Brilliant managers in many senses, in all the clubs top-quality players, every squad has 15 or 16 exceptional players, the fans are back, so it’s an honour to be here in the Premier League in this country.”
City’s trip to Stamford Bridge kicks off a hugely demanding week for the English champions as they then travel to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League before a visit to Liverpool next weekend.
Guardiola was without John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodrigo due to injury for last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Southampton, but hopes to have at least some of them back fit for the Chelsea clash. Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden are also in line to make their first Premier League starts of the season after scoring in a 6-1 thrashing of Wycombe in the League Cup on Tuesday.
Tuchel has revealed Chelsea will be without England star Mason Mount for the ‘six-pointer’ against champions Manchester City. Mount, 22, suffered an unspecified injury in Chelsea’s League Cup tie against Aston Villa on Wednesday, which the Blues won on penalties.
The absence of the midfielder is a significant blow to Chelsea’s hopes of a fourth successive win against Guardiola’s side. “For Mason Mount it is too soon. He has a minor injury from the Aston Villa game. He made a big step, huge progress, but it is not enough to be ready for tomorrow,” Tuchel said.
There was some good news for Blues boss Tuchel on the injury front as Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is fit to return after a hip problem flared up against Zenit Saint Petersburg last week.
Chelsea’s impressive start to the season features a five-game unbeaten run in the league, including away wins at Tottenham and Arsenal, as well as a draw at title rivals Liverpool. But it is City, crowned champions three times in the past four seasons, who pose the acid test of Chelsea’s bid to win the title for the first time since 2017.
And while he did not want to bill this weekend’s clash as a must-win showdown, Tuchel acknowledged the importance of the meeting. “It is a six-pointer between two teams who are clearly rivals for the top four. It is not necessary to be shy, to play it down,” Tuchel said.
“Any team can steal three points from a direct competitor so you can call it this. But if we win tomorrow we will not be crowned as champions and if City win they will not be champions and we will not be in depression.”
Meanwhile, Harry Kane has endured a slow start to his season for Tottenham after a move to Manchester City failed to materialise and is yet to score in the Premier League. But Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo believes the England striker is still getting up to speed after Euro 2020.
“He has much more to give and it’s about the game, improving and growing together,” said Nuno as he prepared for tomorrow’s north London derby against Arsenal. “In terms of the squad and preparation we have players who have 65/70 sessions and we have players who have 15 sessions.”
After three games, Tottenham were top of the Premier League and Arsenal rock bottom. Since then Spurs have suffered consecutive 3-0 defeats against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, while Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have stopped the rot with 1-0 wins over Norwich and Burnley.
Arteta said confidence levels were rising after his side won their League Cup third round tie against AFC Wimbledon in midweek. “Now the boys have won three matches in a row so credit for how they have handled that situation and now they are really looking forward to playing on Sunday, which is the biggest day of the season for us so far at home,” he said.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Today: Chelsea v Manchester City (1130), Manchester United v Aston Villa (1130), Everton v Norwich, Leeds v West Ham, Leicester v Burnley, Watford v Newcastle, Brentford v Liverpool (1630)
Tomorrow: Southampton v Wolves (1300), Arsenal v Tottenham (1530)
Monday: Crystal Palace v Brighton (1900)
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