Guardiola hails Premier League title triumph as hardest of his career

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Pep Guardiola has branded Manchester City retaining the Premier League title as the toughest of his nine major league triumphs.

City pipped Liverpool to the league crown by just one point following a 4-1 win at Brighton to conclude the greatest title battle in top-flight history.

Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan all hit the net as City stormed home at the Amex Stadium after Glenn Murray had given the Seagulls a shock 28th-minute lead.

City rattled off 14 successive victories to seal the title, with Guardiola then declaring his players and coaches are nowhere near satisfied.

“That is the toughest league that we’ve won, the Premier League, Germany, Spain, that’s the toughest that we’ve won,” said Guardiola.

“I’m not going to deny it is exhausting but winning is so addictive and now we have the chance to win the FA Cup and a treble.

“Then we have to make decisions for next season to come back strong. Liverpool will maintain and so we have to be better.

“Competitive people are never satisfied, it’s never enough. We want more and more.

“And that’s why the second one, to make it back to back, shows me this kind of thing. It shows me it wasn’t enough (for the players), that one wasn’t enough.”

Murray headed Brighton into the lead to hand City a scare but that fright lasted just 83 seconds.

Aguero buried the visitors’ first chance, and after Laporte headed in from a corner 10 minutes later, Guardiola’s men never relented.

City have racked up 198 points across their consecutive title victories, with Guardiola claiming Liverpool’s chase has driven his side to new levels this term.

Liverpool’s 97-point haul would have won all but these last two league campaigns.

City’s madcap celebrations included Oasis star Noel Gallagher belting out his classic hit Wonderwall with the squad in the dressing room.

Guardiola was keen for his players to enjoy the moment but then confirmed City will quickly refocus on completing that unprecedented domestic treble.

Adamant City will be ready for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Watford, Guardiola joked his side still has weak points.

“Yes, there are weaknesses,” he said. “I’m the tallest guy, so at set-pieces I must go to the church and pray. It’s a trouble.

“No teams in England have done that before so we have to challenge, compete and be focused on this game. Of course, the FA Cup isn’t easy to achieve to get to the final and we are going to try to win.”

When asked if his side will go down as the best in English history, Guardiola simply said being in the conversation is all anyone can ask.

“When people suggest you can be one of the best that’s enough,” said Guardiola. “But we had this in Barcelona, too.

“If in 10, 15, 20 years people talk about this team, it’s because we were good.

“Like books, movies, if they sustain the passage of time, if after 25 years people are watching the same movie, reading the same book.

“If people still talk about this team after that time, then it deserves to be considered alongside the best Man United, the best Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Maurizio Sarri still unsure of Eden Hazard's Chelsea future

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Eden Hazard

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri insists he is still in the dark over Eden Hazard’s future.

The forward, who is yet to commit his future to Stamford Bridge, came off the bench in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Leicester on the final day of the Premier League season.

Hazard blew kisses to the travelling fans who called for him to stay after a 22 minute cameo which failed to inspire a victory.

The Belgian was rested with the Europa League final against Arsenal at the end of the month in mind.

Real Madrid continued to be heavily linked with the 28-year-old and Sarri conceded he did not know if Hazard will stay.

He said: “I hope of course, like every fan of Chelsea, that he will remain with us. But at the moment I don’t know.

“I know very well that Eden tried to do his best for seven seasons at Chelsea. He did very well, he has become one of the best two or three players in the world, but I think also that we have to respect him and his decision.”

Despite finishing third in the Premier League, Chelsea still sat 26 points adrift of champions Manchester City.

Sarri also cast doubt over his own position and could not say for sure if he will be at Stamford Bridge for a second season.

He added: “I think but I am not sure. I don’t know. I can say only the club asked me to get into the Champions League and we reached the target – the Champions League.

“As you know very well, I love English football. I love the Premier League, the level is really the best in the world I think, the atmosphere in the stadiums is wonderful. I like very much to stay here.”

Jamie Vardy and Youri Tielemans wasted a fine opening just before the break when the pair failed to combine properly following David Luiz’s slip.

Gonzalo Higuain then missed the best chance of the match when, unmarked, he sidefooted wide from six yards in first-half stoppage time.

The Foxes finished ninth and boss Brendan Rodgers, who replaced Claude Puel in February, is looking forward to the future.

“There is no waiting in football now, there is no time,” he said.

“It was a difficult decision and normally, ideally as a coach or a manager, you don’t want to come in until the summer.

“I’ve had an invaluable period here and that was the reason for coming, seeing the players under pressure for this period of time and seeing if I can influence players to be here for the project going forward.”

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Brighton 1-4 Manchester City: Talking points as Premier League champions reign and retain

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Aymeric Laporte and Man City celebrate the title-winning goal.

Manchester City became the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League title after a nervy end to the season, beating Brighton 4-1 to pip Liverpool to the crown by a point.

Brighton gave them a scare by taking the lead on Sunday, raising Liverpool‘s hopes after they had gotten an early strike against Wolves, but goals from Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, and Ilkay Gundogan ensured Pep Guardiola’s side completed a feat not done since Manchester United won a third straight title in 2008/2009.

Here are the talking points from the win which brought an end to a gripping title battle.

LAPORTE HAS HIS SAY IN VAN DIJK’S SEASON

The word on Laporte this season has been that he’s the second-best defender in the league. That’s high praise in itself, but constantly hearing that there’s a player better than you can’t be fun.

Virgil van Dijk has been immense for Liverpool, arguably the sole reason City even had title rivals, and when Laporte’s mistakes cost his team a shot at the Champions League as he gifted Tottenham two goals in the madcap second leg of the quarter-final, the contrast between best and second-best could not have been starker – not least because Van Dijk’s team have made the final of that competition, for the second straight season.

Liverpool’s main man would win the PFA Player of the Year award soon after Laporte’s horror show, as if to rub it in. But ultimately, although Van Dijk ends the season having anchored the best defence in the league, he doesn’t have a Premier League winner’s medal to show for it. Laporte does, having had the final word on that front. It was his goal that put City back in front on Sunday after Aguero had cancelled out Glenn Murray’s opener.

MAHREZ’S SWEET REDEMPTION

Until Sunday Mahrez’s most significant contribution to the title race was actually in Liverpool’s favour. He missed an 85th-minute penalty at Anfield in October in a 0-0 draw, a moment that was looming large when the Reds took the lead on Sunday.

No one knows how much that miss has played on the Algerian’s mind this season, his first at the club after he became City’s record signing last summer. Scoring the winning penalty in the shootout in the League Cup final against Chelsea would not have counted for much as consolation had Guardiola’s side lost out on the title.

So assisting the go-ahead goal and then scoring what was essentially the title clincher, a vintage strike – albeit on his right foot – as Mahrez left a defender for dead with a dribble before shooting from outside the box to make it 3-1 and put the doubts to bed, must have been a satisfying moment.

CITY TAKING PREMIER LEAGUE TO NEW HEIGHTS

Until two seasons ago, the record for points in a Premier League season was 95. This year, a team has topped that mark and not won the title.

That’s the standard City have set. Last year it was becoming the first team to earn 100 points. This time, they’ve lost two games more in comparison but still ended the campaign on 98 points, as they matched the previous season’s win total of 32 – a Premier League record.

Going by those stats, a team has the leeway to fail to win just five games to beat this City side. For the record, Arsenal’s Invincibles side drew 12 games, the Chelsea team that hit that 95-point mark drew eight and lost one, and Manchester United’s Treble winners drew 13 and lost three. Liverpool this season matched that 2004-05 Chelsea side by losing only once, but drew seven times.

The bar has been well and truly raised. Liverpool may have pushed them to the brink this season, but a year after winning the league by 19 points, City have taken a punch from the best England had to offer and still ended up on top.

The message to everyone else is clear. It’s going to take something monumental to beat Guardiola’s all-conquering side.

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