Runaway Premier League champions Manchester City head to Goodison Park to take on relegation-threatened Everton on Sunday.
Only a few days after holding Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie in Spain, the Cityzens put their formidable 13-game unbeaten Premier League run on the line on Merseyside.
After wrestling back control of the Premier League title race from Arsenal, Pep Guardiola’s men are on the brink of making history as they could win a third straight league crown for the first time.
With a game in hand, the reigning champions are in the driver’s seat to maintain their reign of dominance in England, but any slip-ups could prove costly at the tail-end of the season.
That’s why the Spaniard doesn’t want any distractions, emphasising the importance of taking points at Goodison, regardless of the upcoming home clash against Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.
“My thought is just Everton – no more than that,” Guardiola said on Friday, as relayed by France24.
“It’s 11 months working for the Premier League. We don’t have much time to Madrid because we play Sunday – thank you so much – but it’s a real, real priority, Goodison Park.”
Inspired by Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half double, Man City squeezed past Sam Allardyce’s Leeds United last weekend to maintain a narrow one-point lead at the Premier League summit.
But fatigue could be catching up with Guardiola’s troops following an exhausting European contest at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, with another intense showdown waiting in the wings.
Treble-chasing City could bring home a long-overdue Champions League trophy this season, but the Spaniard is reluctant to let his team’s hard work on the domestic front go in vain.
Despite coming into Sunday’s match as pre-match favourites, the Cityzens cannot afford to underestimate 17th-placed Everton, who are fighting for their lives.
Last Monday’s unfathomable 5-1 demolition of European hopefuls Brighton & Hove Albion steered the Toffees two points clear of the drop zone. However, the job is not done yet.
Manager Sean Dyche looks aware of the size of the task at hand as he fired a warning shot at Man City ahead of their high-stakes encounter at Goodison.
Playing against teams fighting for survival can prove a banana skin, as Man City witnessed first-hand when Everton held them to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season.
Therefore, it’s no wonder Guardiola wants his players to put their European dreams aside this weekend and focus on breaking down the Toffees’ home fortress.
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