The Sunday Mail
England. — No one knows the mood of his players better than Pep Guardiola and, listening to him on Friday, it is clear that their behavior this week has filled him with assurance.
The Manchester City manager has observed relaxed players, smiling players and players who are relishing the opportunity to win at Brighton this afternoon and become the first side since Manchester United in 2009 to retain the Premier League title.
“They are focused. We’ve spoken in meetings and on the (training) pitch,” he said.
‘It’s a game where anything can happen, mistakes for or against us can decide the title. That’s why we have to be precise in all aspects we’ve been working on in these last three years.’
Only once before, when Barcelona beat Real Valladolid to pip Real Madrid to the Spanish title in 2010, has Guardiola been embroiled in final-day theatre.
The margins are finer than ever as to whether this season is deemed a success or a failure.
City could finish with a domestic Treble — with the FA Cup final against Watford to come next week — or they could be left with only the Carabao Cup to show for a tremendous campaign.
“I’m not going to change my opinion on what we’ve done,’ Guardiola said.
“But to get more credit, you have to win. We saw in the Champions League that when you are out, everybody destroys the clubs. We will be judged.
“It’s a dream to be here. I didn’t expect to be in the position we are in now when we were seven points behind this Liverpool.
“So that’s why it’s a dream come true. But now is not the moment to say how well we’ve done. We have the chance to be champions.
“We have done incredibly well all season in all competitions and now have two games — two finals — for two titles.’
Guardiola appeared to reject the idea of having one of his backroom team keeping an eye on developments at Anfield.
For City, the equation is simple: win and the title is theirs.
‘It’s better to focus on what we have to do. If we win we don’t have to look at anything else. If the game is running into problems, be calm and think about what you have to do. It would be nice to score early. We’ve analysed Brighton and know how well they defend.
‘You may have to go crazy in the last five, 10, 15 minutes but before that we have a plan — what we have done all season.’
City defender Aymeric Laporte had his own way of preparing for today’s decisive game.
‘Personally, the most important thought is to visualise myself with the trophy in my hands,’ he said. The creative onus will be on Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva.
Sterling collected the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award in London on Thursday but Guardiola believes Bernardo was worthy of recognition.
‘He was the best, not just in our team,’ he said. ‘But I don’t vote. Bernardo can play incredibly well anywhere. Give me any team, he will play well there. So clever, so smart.’ —Dailymail