Guardiola prefers Man City to win EPL title at home rather than from Arsenal loss
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The first phase of Manchester City's three-pronged trophy pursuit could be secured before Pep Guardiola's team even takes the field against Chelsea on Sunday.
A fifth English Premier League title in six seasons will be confirmed on Saturday if second-placed Arsenal loses at Nottingham Forest.
Not that Guardiola wants to be crowned champion in those circumstances.
"If we can win (Sunday) and celebrate in the stadium with our people, that will be the best celebration,” he said on Friday.
In his position, he can afford to be choosy about how he wants the title party to go.
City's dominance of the league was under serious threat from an Arsenal team that led the table for much of the campaign and held an eight-point advantage over the defending champion at the start of April.
But a combination of the Gunners' late-season swoon and City's run of 11 straight wins has all but ensured the title will remain at Etihad Stadium for a third year in a row.
“In the Premier League," Guardiola said, "it’s a question of not being far away from the top of the league; don’t give up, never ever; and wait."
He openly questioned if his players had lost their edge this season after winning four leagues in his seven years at the club. He described the players as “happy flowers” and warned that Arsenal would “destroy” them if they didn't improve.
No one is questioning City now, with the team three games away from the treble of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
Thrashing Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday underlined City's devastating form and mood.
Only the most unlikely of slumps would see it surrender the Premier League title, but Guardiola said he would leave nothing to chance against a Chelsea with fragile confidence.
“The last one (match) is the most difficult one because there are a lot of emotions and many things,” he added. “We cannot be distracted right now. We will not forgive ourselves if we are distracted in something.”
Chelsea has endured one of its worst seasons in recent memory despite spending around $630 million on new players.
In a chaotic first year under new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, the London club has fired two managers in a bid to turn its fortunes and will not qualify for European competition next season.
Interim manager Frank Lampard said he tried to sign City striker Erling Haaland when he was first in charge at Stamford Bridge from 2019-21.
“I was really keen to get him here but obviously that couldn’t happen," Lampard said on Friday. “He’s special. I thought he’d adapt straight away just (because of) his level.
“Whether he would have come I don’t know, but I was pushing big, and for a couple of other players as well. But he was the outstanding one."
Lampard has two more games left of his interim spell, with Mauricio Pochettino widely expected to be hired as Chelsea's next permanent manager.
Lampard's return to the club where he was an icon as a player, has not gone well. He has won only one of his eight games in charge and lost six.
“You want to always get results, but you have to be realistic in football," Lampard said. "Generally, there’s a lot of work to do here. I can have a certain impact with certain individuals within the group because I have a big feeling for the club.”
After running City so close for so long, Arsenal's only hope is to prolong the title race by beating relegation-threatened Forest.
Mikel Arteta's side has exceeded expectations by challenging for the title, but two wins from its last seven league games has effectively handed the title to City.
The Arsenal manager, however, was in defiant mood on Friday.
“We’re still there," he said. "With two games to go we can still be champions against probably the best team in Premier League history.
“For 10 months we’re still there. There’s two games still to go and we’re not going to bottle that for sure.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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