Pep Guardiola has told his players not to look at Manchester City’s forthcoming schedule but to embrace the ‘beautiful challenge’ after watching his side go 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win at Everton.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side did manage to lay a glove at least as Richarlison cancelled out Phil Foden’s opener – only the second time in the last nine league games City have failed to keep a clean sheet – but there was no denying them a 17th straight win in all competitions.
And, as they became the first English top-flight side to start a calendar year with 10 consecutive league wins in a row, it is harder to see who might deny Guardiola a third Premier League title.
City were without Ilkay Gundogan after the German midfielder sustained a groin injury during the 3-0 victory over Tottenham, but Guardiola maintained that he will need to call upon all of his players during a hectic schedule in order to battle on multiple fronts.
“If we want to win titles, we’re going to need the entire squad,” the City boss said. “What pleased me today was the solidarity even from the guys who didn’t play. From Benjamin [Mendy] in the stands, from John [Stones] and Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko]. Everyone is a part of this.
“We have an incredible schedule ahead and we’re expecting a long week. We’ve not had a full week to train since the beginning of the season almost, so we’re going to need everyone. We go into every game trying to get the points and with a good performance. This is what makes me grateful to have these players.
Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow afternoon we will start to think about Arsenal. It’s better you don’t see the schedule, otherwise you get depressed.
“Winning 10 straight games at the start of the calendar year is nice but next is Arsenal. Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow afternoon we will start to think about Arsenal. It’s better you don’t see the schedule, otherwise you get depressed. But at the same time, it’s a beautiful challenge. We will come back here in a few weeks to try to get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and we’ve seen how hard it will be. It’s not worth looking at the schedule. Just the next one, and that’s Arsenal.
“It’s all about freshening the mind and the body to go again.”
This match should have been played in December, postponed at short notice a little over six weeks ago due to a coronavirus outbreak within the City camp, but they look in rude health now.
Though they travelled down the M62 without the in-form Gundogan due to his groin injury, any sympathy for Guardiola lasted no longer than a glance at a substitutes bench including Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Fernandinho as City near full fitness.
Richarlison hauled Everton level at the break after cancelling out Foden’s deflected opener but City moved through the gears in the second period as goals from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva ensured the City juggernaut rolls on to face Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, live on Super Sunday.
Guardiola added: “It was a really tough game as Carlo organised his team really well defensively. The gaps were closed so perfectly by [Abdoulaye] Doucoure and [Tom] Davies so it wasn’t easy to find the spaces, but we didn’t concede another chance after they scored.
“It was not easy to find the space but we didn’t concede another chance after their goal, We created enough to win by a bigger margin. Goodison is a tough place to come but our mentality is incredible. We’re not playing to keep what we have – we’re playing to get more. Today, that was another three points and a good performance again.
“Football at the highest level, you concede goals but the important thing is to keep creating chances. We reacted really well to Liverpool scoring at Anfield and we did the same thing today.”
Sunday – Arsenal (A) Premier League, live on Sky Sports; 4.30pm
Wed Feb 24 – Borussia Monchengladbach (A) Champions League, 8pm
Sat Feb 27 – West Ham (H) Premier League, 12.30pm
Sat March 6 – Manchester United (H) Premier League, TBC
Sat March 13 – Fulham (A) Premier League, TBC
Tue March 16 – Borussia Monchengladbach (H) Champions League, 8pm
Ancelotti: No regrets, onwards to ‘special’ derby
Everton have lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since March 2016, while manager Carlo Ancelotti has suffered three in a row for the first time since November 2006 when he was AC Milan manager.
Indeed, it is five years since Everton last failed to win five consecutive league games at Goodison, and Yerry Mina is set to miss the trip to face Liverpool on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, after being withdrawn with a calf injury during the first half.
Ancelotti was encouraged by parts of his team’s display, however, and has already turned his focus on the trip to Anfield. “It was really difficult, and I think for an hour we had a good control of the game – of course, defending,” he said.
“Above all, the second part of the first half. After they scored the second goal it was almost impossible to come back again. Of course, you can lose against Man City so you can’t have any regrets.
“Offensively I felt we could’ve done better but they are the best team and we are not at the same level. They don’t have only quality, they are also strong.
“It will be a different game against Liverpool. We are on a good run away and we believe more. Liverpool are a fantastic team but in football you never know.
“Yerry had a problem on his calf and I think he won’t be available for the game on Saturday but we hope to have Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Allan back.
“It is a great opportunity, we don’t have to have regrets tonight, the regrets were against Fulham. We know how much the next game is important for the supporters and will do all we need to get the result on Saturday. The derby is a special game and away we have a good run so we hope for this.”
Everton travel to face Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event; coverage starts at 5pm with kick-off at 5.30pm.
Manchester City visit Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Super Sunday; coverage starts on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event at 4pm with kick-off at 4.30pm.