Guardiola picks out six contenders for Premier League title race - GulfToday

Guardiola picks out six contenders for Premier League title race


Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures during their Community Shield match against Liverpool. Reuters

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he expects this season’s Premier League title race to be more open than last season’s when his side pipped Liverpool to the line in a two-horse race after an epic tussle.

City beat Liverpool on penalties in Sunday’s Community Shield at Wembley — the traditional curtain-raiser to the season — after a high-tempo clash ended 1-1.

The two sides look likely to go toe-to-toe again when the season begin at Anfield on Friday with Liverpool’ home clash against Norwich City before City open away to West Ham United a day later.

Last season City won the title with 98 points to Liverpool’s 97 after Guardiola’s side won their last 14 Premier League games. Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United completed the top six.

Guardiola played down suggestions a similar story would unfold.

“I think at the beginning of the season, all six of these teams are contenders,” he said.

“I don’t know if it will be like last season, two real contenders, I think United with (expected new signing, Harry) Maguire and the other players, Arsenal too, Chelsea and Tottenham.

“I think there will be many, many contenders this time.”

“Maguire is an excellent, top-class player. We were interested but we could not afford it.

“There are two real contenders, Liverpool and us, to win the title.

“So it is good to see the team we will compete with, the champions of Europe.

“They are a top-class team, the difference is minimal, one point last season and one penalty today.

“That’s why it’s good to play them, to say ‘guys this is the team we have to compete against. That is what we have to prepare for’.”

With a 10-month war of attrition looming as City try to defend the domestic trophies and wrestle the Champions League away from Liverpool, Guardiola was encouraged with the way his team dominated in the first half.

“The hunger is there for this part of the season. The game was tremendously demanding.

“We had a really good first half but after that we couldn’t control the switch of play, the long balls,” he said.

“For this part of the season that is normal. The calendar is crazy with the Copa America and the African Cup.”

Guardiola eased fears Leroy Sane suffered a serious injury when City’s Germany winger -- a transfer target for Bayern Munich -- limped off in the first half.

“The first impression was not good but I think it is not that. Honestly I don’t know, it is for the doctors. I will wait to see what the doctors say but I think he will be ok,” Guardiola said.

While Liverpool finished a difficult pre-season -- including several defeats and the delayed return of their top stars from international duty -- Klopp said his side’s dominant second half performance showed they will be a thorn in City’s side.

“I’m completely happy about it. No team plays like City. You saw in a few moments that we struggled positioning-wise when they do what they can do,” he said.

“But we changed a few things and in the second half of course it is about will, no-one felt tired any more and I like that a lot.”

Agence France-Presse

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