Pep Guardiola tried to play down growing excitement among Manchester City supporters over the possibility of winning the Premier League title when they face bitter rivals United in the derby early next month.
Jose Mourinho’s side visit the Etihad Stadium on April 7 for a game which could see City make mathematically certain of being crowned champions following their 2-0 victory at Stoke on Monday.
First, City must win their visit to mid-table Everton but, should they do so, Guardiola will win his first league title in English football with victory over his old rival Mourinho at the Etihad.
“Everybody is always asking this question,” said Guardiola. “But the important thing is on March 12, we have 81 points, that is a lot of points.
“We want to be champions. We need three wins, but we are able to do it with two (if City beat United).
“But before and after United, we have the (Champions League) quarter-finals, and at the moment that is the most important thing to focus on.
“I understand for the fans, okay, but the important thing is to be champions. When and where it doesn’t matter.”
The in-form English team are also in with a strong chance of winning Europe’s premier prize for the first time in their history.
The draw for the Champions League last eight takes place on Friday and Guardiola will watch it live, along with his first-team squad, at their warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, where City flew immediately following the Stoke win.
City’s shock exit from the FA Cup, at the hands of third-tier Wigan, leaves them without a game until the clash with Everton on the final day of the month.
“We are going to be together and make three training sessions in five days,” said the City manager.
“We are going to have lunch together, dinner, some people are playing golf. But the weather conditions are better than here – the forecast in Manchester is rain, rain, rain!
“So we are going to go there and do the training we should be doing here. Last season we were there and it was good and that’s why we’re going to the airport now.”
City’s victory at Stoke came courtesy of two goals from David Silva, whose season has been disrupted because of a family crisis, following the premature birth of his son Mateo in December.
The City forward has been returning to Spain frequently to visit his family and admitted after his superb performance against Stoke that football has been a welcome relief.
“I think when I play football I forget everything, it’s good for me to play,” he said.
“I know in my private life it is not a very happy moment. But my son is fighting, you know, and I am very happy because he is getting stronger, getting better, so it is okay.”
City captain Vincent Kompany offered support to Silva, who has been given permission to miss the Abu Dhabi trip to spend time in Spain.
“David just explained his story, it puts everything into perspective for us,” said the defender.
“It is a massive boost and relief to be able to play this game like we do. It gives us perspective and brings a moment of joy into our lives.”
City, meanwhile, can look forward to a memorable finale to the season given their current form and dominance over the Premier League although their demanding manager is clearly not in the mood to allow his players to relax.
“To motivate my players is really easy, we are not champions yet, and when we are, we must carry on, to focus on the next goals which is the Champions League quarter-finals,” said Guardiola.
“There are always goals to pursue, statistics to overcome, and we will carry on and then work towards next season. There is always room for improvement and that is what we will do.”
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany admits the chance to clinch the Premier League title against rivals Manchester United is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
David Silva struck twice in a sublime performance as the league leaders recorded a straightforward 2-0 win against Stoke at the Bet365 Stadium.
The Spain midfielder expertly converted Raheem Sterling’s 10th-minute cross before getting on the end of Gabriel Jesus’ lofted pass to make it 2-0 early in the second half.
City, who restored their 16-point lead at the top of the table, remain on course to claim the title as early as April 7 after their game with rivals Manchester United.
Kompany knows work has to be done in their next Premier League game against Everton if they are to get that chance, but he told Sky Sports Premier League: “Everybody in the blue side of Manchester knows it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. But (we have to be) steady.
“We have one game before then which will be difficult and then we will see. It is not going to be handed to us.”
Silva took his goal tally for the season to nine despite having missed some games over the past three months following the premature birth of his son.
The 32-year-old told Sky Sports Premier League: “When I play football I forget everything. It’s good for me to play. In my private life now it is a very hard moment but my son is fighting. I’m very happy because he is getting stronger.”
Blues boss Pep Guardiola typically downplayed the derby-day title possibility.
“Everybody has asked me about it but the important thing is that on March 12 we have 81 points,” he said.
“We want to be champions and to do that we need to win two or three games.”
Stoke manager Paul Lambert was keen to take positives from a game in which his side could have lost more heavily were it not for some resolute defending.
“They’re a top side, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.
“Their movement, their speed, the way they make the pitch really big when they have the ball and really small when they don’t.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up – that’s why they’re going to win the league and are in the race to win the Champions League.
“I’m delighted we didn’t capitulate and kept our spirit there.”
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has been suspended from his duties as a Sky Sports analyst after the 40-year-old admitted spitting at a teenage girl in a car was “four or five seconds of madness”.
In a video of the incident, the 14-year-old’s father repeatedly mentioned the scoreline of Manchester United‘s 2-1 victory over Liverpool on Saturday and the former player is heard to say “All right”, before appearing to spit at the car alongside his.
Carragher has apologised to the family and stressed he will try to do so again in person but that has not prevented his employers dropping him from the Monday Night football programme.
“Jamie Carragher has been suspended from his duties as a football analyst for Sky after he was filmed spitting at a family in their car following Liverpool’s defeat against Manchester United on Saturday,” said a statement from Sky Sports on their Twitter account.
Carragher has expressed regret both privately and publicly and admits he has no explanation for his actions.
“Watching those clips back it feels like an out-of-body thing, that moment of madness for four or five seconds.
“I have no excuse and it is devastating for the family involved and my own family – but it is my actions which have brought that on.
“My biggest regret – there are lots at what has happened – but certainly the biggest one is for a 14-year-old girl to be caught in the middle of an altercation with her father.
Totally out of order & Ive apologised personally to all the family this evening. I was goaded 3/4 times along the motorway while being filmed & lost my rag. No excuse apologies. https://t.co/ofrNfiwhYH
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) March 11, 2018
“That has devastated me more than anything. This is a bad stain on my character and my career.”
Asked what kind of message it sent out he added: “A poor message. Not just being in the game of football, it is a poor message for everyone out there.
“It is the lowest of the low. All I can do is apologise and try to get back to being the person I am.”
Carragher, who has not offered his resignation, was asked a number of times whether he thought he should keep his job.
The former centre-back, who became clearly emotional when speaking about his own teenage daughter, did make a case for being able to continue.
“It is not my decision,” he said.
“There is no doubt what I have done is disgusting. I apologise for it and am getting vilified – and rightly so.
“I am speaking to people at Sky and working at the best way forward. They have made it be known they are very disappointed and I understand that.
“I have brought shame on the name of Sky.
Jamie Carragher says he’s sent a poor message to his kids pic.twitter.com/1hGzNpaBno
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 12, 2018
“Hopefully I can show people over these next days and weeks the real me and hopefully a moment of madness will not cloud their judgement.
“What I would hope, not just for Sky, but for the public who have known me in the public eye for almost 25 years since I was playing, is five seconds of madness would not take over everything.
“All I can do now is apologise. Hopefully they accept that and I’d like to apologise again.
“There is not a lot I can add except improving my actions.”Carragher’s Sky colleague and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville tweeted his support.
“I’ve just watched Carra23 say sorry. No excuses he’s made a big mistake. He’s massively passionate about football and he’s overstepped the mark and shouldn’t have reacted,” he wrote.
“I’ve been on TV for 3 years with him and imo this isolated incident shouldn’t stop us working together.”
Provided by Press Association Sport