LEICESTER, England — Pep Guardiola says the Premier League title race is far from over despite Manchester City slipping to third following their 2-1 defeat at Leicester City.
City are now seven points behind leaders Liverpool but the Catalan insisted his side will still be in with a chance of defending their title if they match the 44 points they collected from the first half of the season. But he warned that City must regain their winning form soon after a run of three defeats in their last four games.
“Today we finished the first [half of the season] and made an incredible amount of points,” Guardiola told a news conference. “Normally with those points we would be fighting to be champions. If we make the same points in the second half of the season, we are fighting to win the Premier League.
“But last season, while there were many teams that did well, we were fantastic. This season, there are two or three teams better than us. We’re not thinking about taking points, the issue is trying to win again and think ourselves about what we have to do.”
City have a chance to close in on the leaders when they play Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Jan. 3 but first they travel to Southampton in four days’ time to face a side who have improved significantly under new boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Liverpool, meanwhile, face Arsenal and Guardiola warned his rivals that it can be difficult to lead from the front when everybody expects you to win.
“From January-February [last season, people said] the Premier League is over,” Guardiola said. “To live with that is not easy.
“One month ago people said [about] Liverpool and before we have three or four games. Football is [that] you are able to win a lot of games and you are able to lose a lot of games. When I was at Barcelona for one period I lost four games in a row.
“The less important issue is Liverpool. We have to think about Southampton, recover mentally and recover what we are like a team. I don’t forget who we are. How good a team we are. How exceptional these lads I have in the locker room. But the reality is we lost three in four games and the last two. If you want to be real contenders you have to win again, if you don’t, it will not be possible.”
Guardiola’s main issue is stop conceding goals. City have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine games but the manager says they have been unfortunate with the goals they have conceded.
“We lost again. We have to accept the reality and come back as soon as possible to win again — for all the competitions, for ourselves,” he said. “It’s quite similar to Stamford Bridge. They scored with their first attempt after 44 minutes, Crystal Palace scored two goals from their first two attempts and today the first attempt was a goal. In all the games we were better and stable.
“Maybe we don’t create many chances but sometimes it is not easy to create a lot with players coming back from injury. They need time and minutes in their legs. Apart from the five or 10 minutes at the end of the first half when we conceded two or three chances in a row — because sometimes it happens — the rest was no big issue.
“We are going to miss a little bit of the final pass, the final assist, the last shot and teams are punishing us: [Andros] Townsend [for Palace], today it was another fantastic goal [by Ricardo]. We can avoid the corner, the second ball but it’s football. It’s happened, accept the reality. We have to leave that and we have to try to win again for our mood, our confidence, for our desire.”