Perfect day for City as Guardiola relishes ‘privilege’

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Perfect day for City as Guardiola relishes ‘privilege’
Perfect day for City as Guardiola relishes ‘privilege’

Africa-Press – Eritrea. If Manchester City had to design their perfect game between two Champions League ties against Real Madrid, a 5-1 home win over Luton would have been up there.

An early own goal followed by strikes from Mateo Kovacic, Erling Haaland, Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol saw them go top of the Premier League table for a day at least.

Pep Guardiola also had another focus in the post-match news conference – moving 13 points above fifth-placed Tottenham.

“We’re close to qualifying for the Champions League,” he said. “People say Pep… (but) no, you have to qualify for the Champions League.

“With Tottenham (losing 4-0 to Newcastle) today (Saturday), we are closer. The biggest target every season is to qualify for the Champions League next season. We’re closer today.”

It’s fair to say Guardiola was in a jovial mood after his side went top of the table for the first time since November.

He winked at a reporter after claiming he had a tactical conversation with defender and goal-scorer Gvardiol a year ago (before he was at the club)—and then claimed he was going to rest Rodri again for the second leg against Real before asking: “Do you believe me?”

Rodri had asked for a break following Tuesday’s 3-3 thriller in the Champions League quarter-final first leg in Madrid. He was an unused substitute here and realistically will start against Real on Wednesday.

John Stones was left out of the squad and Phil Foden was on the bench but both should be fine for that game too. Ederson was back in goal after a month out and captain Kyle Walker was on the bench after a similar period out.

City had 37 shots in this match—their most in a Premier League game since March 2015 against West Bromwich Albion. The only slight worry for a while was that they were not going to add to their opener, which came in the second minute.

They had 26 shots— to Luton’s zero—before Kovacic crashed in his first Premier League goal for the side.

“How many times have you seen in world football the team who are better and don’t win the game? Many times,” said Guardiola, who was almost on the pitch shouting instructions to his players at that stage. “After the second and third (goals, it was OK.”

Haaland, who was misfiring early on, stayed on the pitch long enough to score his 20th Premier League goal of the season from the spot—but only his third goal in his last eight games for club and country.

He and Kevin de Bruyne, back from illness, left the pitch to standing ovations seconds before Ross Barkley’s goal for Luton.

It is another big week for City, who may lose the top spot if Arsenal or Liverpool win their games on Sunday.

City host Real Madrid on Wednesday and face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday. Another Treble is still possible. Nobody has ever managed two in a row.

“We spoke to the players about how incredible it is to be here again,” said the Catalan. “What a privilege. After what we’ve done in previous seasons, we’re still fighting for the Premier League.

“Against Real Madrid, we have the chance to qualify for the Champions League semi-final and all the energy our fans will bring – and the FA Cup next Saturday against Chelsea to again reach the final.

“What a privilege. Imagine having no chance of the Premier League or other competitions. Try saying ‘One more week, one more week, one more week’.”

Luton remain in the relegation zone following their defeat, with the high point of their performance being Barkley’s goal, which made it 3-1 for six minutes.

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