For Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s 1-0 victory at Premier League champions Chelsea was a sign that his team can now impose their style upon any of their title rivals.
Accustomed to seeing his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides laud it over all and sundry, Guardiola had a reality check in his first season at City, who were well beaten by teams such as Leicester City and Everton.
But the dominant nature of Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge, secured by Chelsea old boy Kevin De Bruyne’s 67th-minute strike, convinced him City can stamp their authority on any contest.
“We try with Manchester City to convince the club that we are able to go wherever and do our game and not wait (to see) what happened,” Guardiola said.
“Of course you have to adapt to the opponents because the opponents have the same quality like yours.
“But to show in the first minute to the people in Stamford Bridge that these guys came here to try to win the game, that is what I want to give to the club and the team.
“I’m so satisfied because we won in a way that we tried from the beginning.”
Though the margin of victory was slimmer than in recent outings, City’s control of the match was total, their defenders pushing high up the pitch and pinning Chelsea inside their own half.
Victory took City back above Manchester United on goal difference at the top of the table, five points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and six clear of Chelsea.
But Guardiola knows the finishing line is a long way away.
– De Bruyne ‘complete’ –
“Chelsea won 15 (actually 13) games in a row last season. They were unbeatable and won the league well in advance,” he told his post-match press conference.
“Of course this season they have a little more problems because they play every three days. It’s always more complicated for all the teams.
“We saw again the Harry Kane team (Tottenham), scoring two or three goals every day.
“Jose with United always will be tough, because now you see United is a Jose Mourinho team: so aggressive, win duels, so quick in the counter-attack.
“It will be so tough, but it’s important in the process to show we can do that. We go to Old Trafford or White Hart Lane or Emirates Stadium, we are going to try. The opponents are good too, but we are going to try.”
De Bruyne’s strike, a 20-yard effort with his left foot past Belgium team-mate Thibaut Courtois, came after his sparkling goal in City’s 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday.
De Bruyne left Chelsea for Wolfsburg in January 2014 and although the Blues’ current manager Antonio Conte said he did not know about the circumstances of the 26-year-old’s departure, he paid him a glowing tribute.
“I don’t know what happened in the past,” said the Italian, who guided Chelsea to the title in his maiden campaign.
“But we are talking about a really good player, a top player, because he is a good technical (player), fast, good personality, runs a lot. I think he’s a complete player.”
Conte could not fault his own players’ efforts and suggested they had paid for the quick turnaround that followed their stirring 2-1 win away to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.
“We could take this as an excuse, but for sure when you have to play another massive game only two days later, you must consider the fatigue in the legs of your players,” he said.
“For example, It’s impossible to go to press box-to-box because after 30 minutes you have not the energy to continue to play this game.”
Spanish striker Alvaro Morata will undergo tests on Sunday, having been substituted in the first half as a precaution after feeling a twinge in his left hamstring, but Conte expressed hope it was not serious.
London, United Kingdom | AFP