Pep Guardiola keeps his eyes on the prize as he kickstarts Man City’s recovery

Pep Guardiola didn’t always look like a manager who recently had such an impressive lead.

He looked a little depressed, annoyed at the ongoing chatter surrounding his rotation policy. Perhaps launching such a passionate public backlash to the European Super League served as a slight relief.

This was a strange time for Manchester City and juggling all four leagues proved too much in this brutal season. They have a fantastic squad, but found it not so deep and powerful that they could just knock Chelsea away in an FA Cup semi-final with half a dozen first-choice starters watching.

Pep Guardiola has his eyes on the prize with his Man City squad marching to the title

Pep Guardiola has his eyes on the prize with his Man City squad marching to the title

In private, Guardiola will have known this when he traveled to Wembley last weekend for a tie that now feels like a lifetime ago.

Those changes were a result of what had happened against Leeds United a week earlier and there is an argument that Marcelo Bielsa actually did more to knock City out than Thomas Tuchel. That defeat by ten men in injury time changed Guardiola’s plans and made him think about the next two games.

He trusts all of his players, but admitted that some of those picked in the semifinals in offensive areas – namely Raheem Sterling – struggled for form and confidence.

The elected champions were stunned two weeks ago by Leeds with ten men on Elland Road

Their quadruple dream died a week later when Chelsea threw City out of the FA Cup

Gambling is the wrong word, but there is no doubt that the Premier League got priority after the reverse in Leeds.

Guardiola’s mantra is that the league comes first – everything else is a bonus – and he simply couldn’t bear the prospect of such an advantage from Manchester United, which has been lurking on purpose for the past few weeks.

Aston Villa gained importance with an eight point lead. City obviously knows all about a late run to take a title.

“To the English clubs: well done, let’s get back to football,” Guardiola said on Wednesday evening. ‘It is over. The focus is on the game. We are so concerned about what to think about. ‘

City’s attention returned to the competition and a 2-1 win over Villa puts them closer and closer to becoming England champions again.

Delivered the keyword there and he’ll feel justification as City rallied after scoring Villa in 20 seconds, bossed the proceedings for 44 minutes, and then got them to leave with a result after trading red cards.

Maybe they will still win this competition in a gallop and maybe it will be seen afterwards that Guardiola could have gone at full power at Wembley.

But he doesn’t know that at the moment and a third title in four years is paramount – even for a club eager to fly with the cabal.

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