‘Home form crucial to CL qualification’


Pep Guardiola says that Manchester City must improve their home form as they try to salvage their season with Champions League qualification.

Guardiola is set to end a season without a trophy for the first time as a manager, following last Sunday’s semifinal defeat by Arsenal at Wembley.

They are far from guaranteed the top-four Premier League finish that would seal a place in the Champions League for next season, though, and will drop to fifth if they lose at home to neighbours Manchester United on Thursday.

City have dropped 15 points at home this season, a significant factor in their failure to build a serious title challenge this season.

Guardiola’s side began this week 14 points behind leaders Chelsea with six games to play, and are unlikely to finish higher than third.

Four of City’s final six matches are at home, and Guardiola has made clear that their form in the Etihad over the next month will dictate which European competition they qualify for.

He said of his side’s home record to date: “We should analyse game by game what happened. The results [at home] are a fact but the way we play every game is what we should talk about.

“We have six games left, four at the Etihad, so our qualification for the Champions League depends on our games at home.

“I have been managing for nine years and this is my first year without a trophy.

“Sometimes it has to happen and it happens now. If I extend my career a lot in the future, I am sure it will happen again but there are a lot of big clubs in Europe without a trophy.”

City’s departure from the FA Cup was a major disappointment for Guardiola and his players, but he is certain that they are mentally strong enough to recover quickly.

He added: “Today, the mood is better than yesterday and tomorrow it will be better than today.

“It [the Arsenal game] is over, it is past. We play to win. We were better but we didn’t win. Congratulations Arsenal.”


David Silva remains a major doubt for Thursday’s match against United with the knee injury he suffered against Arsenal.

Silva was forced off during the first half, on the wrong end of a fierce challenge by Gabriel that went unpunished by referee Craig Pawson.

The Spain international has been able to train this week, but Guardiola is not optimistic about his chances of playing.

“David Silva is a real, real doubt,” Guardiola said. “I don’t know if he will be ready to play after what happened in the first minutes in the semifinal.”

Guardiola, though, is much more hopeful that Sergio Aguero will recover in time to play, while fellow striker Gabriel Jesus could also be involved in the squad.

Aguero came off during extra-time on Sunday, still suffering the effects of a knee in the back from Laurent Koscielny.

Jesus is close to full fitness, having been out of action since breaking a bone in his foot during the 2-0 win at Bournemouth on February 13.

Guardiola said: “Gabriel has no pain at all, so is ready, but after nearly three months out, his condition is not optimal. Sergio is much better. Today he has been a part of the training session.”

The City manager is prepared to play Aguero and Jesus together in the final games of the season, insisting that their combination can work.

Before his injury, Jesus was preferred to Aguero in the central attacking role, with the Argentina international left on the bench regularly following the Brazil striker’s move from Palmeiras in January.

Guardiola said: “Yeah, they can play together. You can play two strikers or without wingers. With wingers wide, it is more complicated.”


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