Manchester City boss Guardiola defends his tactics after miserable Christmas

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Pep Guardiola has defended Manchester City’s title credentials despite back-to-back defeats handing Liverpool the initiative at the top of the Premier League.

Guardiola’s champions endured a miserable Christmas as they were shocked by Crystal Palace and Leicester, surrendering the lead in both matches to make it three defeats in four following a loss to Chelsea earlier in December.

Unbeaten Liverpool took full advantage to make Thursday’s meeting between the two clubs in Manchester must-win for Guardiola’s side.

Before then City head to Southampton on Sunday needing to get themselves back on track, having slipped to third place behind Tottenham in the table.

During a poor run which has coincided with an injury to key midfielder Fernandinho, City have looked well short of the side that earned a record 100 points last season, but Guardiola sees a team still capable of defending their title.

“We did well so far,” he said. “We got 44 points in the first round. If you get the same number of points in the second round, that’s 88 points. With 88 points, you are champions. You have the numbers to be champions.

“Most of the Premier League champions in the past 20 years won it with less points. We did quite well. We did really well.

“But of course you have the past two games, against Crystal Palace and Leicester, and you have that sense, because there are two teams there now who are better than us in the last month.

“What can we say when Liverpool keep nine clean sheets and score a lot of goals? We cannot compete with that in terms of comparing with them.

“So we look at ourselves, and tomorrow against Southampton, we have to do what we do, and try to win, and when that happens, everything comes back to a normal position.”

Guardiola is well known for refusing to budge from his tactical approach and laughed when he was asked if he thought he might need to now – perhaps an understandable response considering all City achieved last season in breaking several Premier League records.

“Oh, I was waiting for that question,” he said. “I was waiting for it later. That is not going to happen. It did not happen in the first year, it is not going to happen.

“Why should I? Because I lost two games? No way. It is definitely not going to happen.”

Instead, Guardiola emphasised the importance of hard work and belief, and expressed confidence City can reach the heights again.

“Football is unpredictable,” he said. “You can lose two, and three, and four, five. That can happen. Tomorrow we can lose, then again against Liverpool and again in the FA Cup.

“In my experience, when this happens it is for everyone to look in the mirror, and work harder, harder. After that, you win one or two, everyone is coming back, and everything becomes normal.”

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