Man City boss Pep Guardiola brushes off Zinchenko’s talk of a clean sweep

Manager taking it one game at a time, starting with Borussia Mönchengladbach

 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and  defender  Oleksandr Zinchenko. Photograph: Mark Kerton/PA Wire

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and defender Oleksandr Zinchenko. Photograph: Mark Kerton/PA Wire

 

Pep Guardiola has sought to downplay Manchester City’s hopes of a historic quadruple, pointedly disagreeing with Oleksandr Zinchenko after the left back said the players have “hungry eyes” when it comes to the challenge. The manager said the prospect of a clean sweep is “a utopia”.

City are already in next month’s Carabao Cup final, they face Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, have a 14-point lead in the Premier League and a 2-0 advantage over Borussia Mönchengladbach going into Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.

Their results have caused speculation that Guardiola’s side could achieve an unprecedented domination of available trophies by an English club and when Zinchenko was asked about this he said: “Inside the dressingroom or inside the team I can see the hungry eyes, everyone is so hungry for the titles and that is what you want.

“This period right now I would say is the most important two months in our careers and especially for players like Sergio Agüero and Fernandinho, who have been here around 10 years each: they deserve it so we are going to try.

“Like Bayern Munich showed last year – they won everything and the other year [2008-09] Barcelona did it as well with Pep and I think everything is possible. We have an unbelievable squad, the best players in the world, definitely, why not?”

Yet Guardiola upbraided the Ukrainian. “I am older than Mr Zinchenko, I have more experience and I don’t agree with him,” said the 50-year-old manager. “The only thing he has to be worried about is trying to do a good game and try to go through. This is the only way. Four titles is a utopia.

“It never happened before and I think it’s never going to happen. We just think about this one, then the next one at Goodison Park, then the international break. Hopefully the players can come back safe and well because we play for important things when they come back and this is the only important thing.”

Guardiola does accept there is a demand for his squad to win every game: “They have to handle the pressure – to play in this team, at this club, in this organisation, they have to know it’s not nice to lose a game. We have to win and win, that’s for sure.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. What we have to do, like we have done since day one, is think about the game we are going to play against Borussia Mönchengladbach. That’s the only thing I’m concerned about.”

Raheem Sterling has denied that there’s any rift with managr Pep Guardiola. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
Raheem Sterling has denied that there’s any rift with managr Pep Guardiola. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Raheem Sterling was left out of the matchday squad for Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Fulham, provoking speculation of a rift between the forward and Guardiola and prompting Sterling to tweet: “Some crazy rumours on socials today . . . That’s absolutely FALSE. Looking forward to a big week with the team.”

Guardiola said: “He didn’t need to do it – nothing happened. He was not selected, that’s all. Sometimes during the season, for example when we travelled to Stamford Bridge [a 3-1 win on January 3rd] we had 14 first-team players and the rest were from the academy.

“In that position it is easy to make the selection and everybody is happy and involved and committed to do what we have to do. When you have 20 top-class players who have had incredible success, it will always be unfair on them [to leave one out] – that is the point.

“I now have 20 players, I trust them, I love them, they are the main reason why we are in the position where we are in the Premier League, Champions League, the final of the Carabao Cup, and quarter-final of the FA Cup. For that game he was not selected but in another game it was other players.”

The manager has recently spoken of selecting those who are playing for the team and not themselves. He was asked if this was a message directed at his squad. “It is a philosophy of life,” Guardiola said. “I need arrogance and aggression in their personalities to be better players and become the best players in the world. We need it.”

City have gone 616 minutes since conceding in the Champions League. “This is so important,” Guardiola said. “What we’ve done in the past is good but doesn’t mean it will happen tomorrow. Every game is different – let’s try to minimise mistakes, we know how they can punish us. – Guardian

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