Defender Kyle Walker insists Manchester City have now drawn a line under their stellar achievements in 2023 and have set their sights on a strong second half to the season.

Capturing the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia last week “finished the piece” in Walker’s eyes in a year when a first Champions League title followed Premier League and FA Cup triumphs, with the UEFA Super Cup added for good measure in August.

Questions have been asked about whether Pep Guardiola’s side are lacking something this season after a run of one win in six Premier League matches, but the come-from-behind 3-1 win at Everton showed they are a long way from giving up on their title defence.

 

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And Walker believes with 20 matches still to come, trailing leaders Liverpool by five points, now is when City will come into their own.

“On the back of winning the Champions League we desperately wanted to win (in Saudi) and finish off the piece. It was good to go and finally tick that off the list,” said the 33-year-old.

“It’s important now to draw a line under it and it’s a big end to the season when we’re in the competition we want to fight for again.

“I don’t think there was many things going wrong on the field except the results. We were playing well, but this game is about winning and we weren’t doing that.

“But that’s football and in the Premier League you can never let your guard down, you’ve got to keep going until the last minute.”

The winning mentality of City’s players is one thing which is not in question after the consistency they have shown over several seasons and that was in evidence again at Goodison Park after falling behind to the Toffees’ first attempt on goal in the first half despite dominating.

Brilliant goals from the impressive Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva either side of a Julian Alvarez penalty turned things around to move City back into the top four and set their sights on the summit again.

“I think it shows the determination and belief in this squad. That’s what this team is all about, digging in, not quitting,” added Walker.

“We’re all good players, we can all play out there, but when the going gets tough it’s about a collective team performance that gets each individual if they’ve made a mistake or they’re doing well, to get you out of that stuff.”

Foden’s performance, playing centrally, was certainly a major factor in the turnaround and not just because of his goal.

In the extended absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who is edging closer to a comeback after a hamstring injury sustained in August, City have at times lacked that creative spark and the England international is one who can give them that.

“Phil’s unbelievable, the talent that boy possesses is incredible, but with this manager and this team and the calibre of players we’ve got, Phil needs to do it week in and week out,” said Walker.

“I think this season he’s really come into his own and took the responsibility on, where we’re missing Kevin or Gundo or Riyad (departed duo Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez).

“But I’m not patting him on the back. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing because I think the sky is the limit for him.

“Resting on a couple of good games is not going to put you in that calibre of the best footballers in the world.

“He’s got the potential, he needs to make sure the drive is still there, he keeps concentrating, keeps putting in the performances that he is doing.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes their 3-1 victory in a “massive” game at Everton will serve as a reminder to their rivals not to write them off.

City arrived back from Saudi Arabia as Club World Cup winners looking to correct a record which had seen them win just once in six Premier League matches and drop off the pace in the title race.

But while they were away, results went in their favour which meant winning their two matches in hand on Liverpool would reduce the deficit at the top to just two points, and the first of those was achieved after they recovered from former winger Jack Harrison’s opener with goals from Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez – from the penalty spot – and Bernardo Silva.

“Really, really important. It was a massive game for us, coming from Saudi Arabia,” said Guardiola.

“We were really pleased with how we reacted and it proved again how special this group of players is and the mentality that we have in our bones.

“We want to be there. I know we are not top of the league, (but) a lot of things are going to happen.

“I never saw a Premier League where every game the teams down low and mid-table can beat everyone. There will be a lot of surprises and the thing is to be there.”

Guardiola said the Club World Cup was not only a distraction, but also helped refocus the players’ minds.

“I remember on the plane coming back from Saudi Arabia I listened to the players when they didn’t know I was listening and they started to talk about Everton,” he added.

“I said ‘wow, this is my team’. I have the feeling they still want to try.

“We play many games this season and people say we are not the same. We have lost one of the last 13 (not including the Club World Cup). We don’t talk enough about how good we are.”

The only downside to the game was an ankle problem for John Stones, who left the stadium wearing a protective boot, on only his fifth Premier League start of a season already significantly affected by injury.

“Hopefully the damage isn’t big and he can come back soon,” said the City boss, who is also hopeful Erling Haaland and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will be available soon.

Haaland has missed six matches with a foot problem while De Bruyne has not played since August because of a hamstring injury.

“He (Haaland) is training alone and getting better, it’s a question of when the pain will disappear,” he said.

“He’s not a skinny guy like Phil Foden, he’s huge and tall so it is more difficult sometimes.

“Kevin is close, but he had fatigue yesterday and we have to be careful. If you don’t handle the timings good you can get injured again.

“I’d love for him to play the next game or Huddersfield (in the FA Cup), but what is important is keeping him fit for a long time, not for one game or another.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche was frustrated by the award of the penalty for handball against Amadou Onana that allowed City to take the lead through Alvarez, but did not use it as an excuse.

“I don’t have a clue. No-one does. Is that deliberate? Of course not. I don’t know where you are supposed to put your hands,” he said.

“The lawmakers are making all these mad rules. I don’t know why they don’t leave the game alone. All the managers are frustrated with it. Maybe the referees are. The players definitely are.

“If he deliberately did that he must be some keeper. His reactions were cat-like. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“But they are still a top side. We know they make chances and you have to try to stop those, which we didn’t do.”

Pep Guardiola spoke of his pride after Manchester City thrashed Fluminense 4-0 to win the Club World Cup for the first time on Friday.

It was the club’s fifth trophy of a memorable 2023 after their previous successes in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and European Super Cup.

Julian Alvarez began the rout after just 40 seconds, teed up another for Phil Foden and then wrapped up a one-sided victory in the closing minutes. City also benefited from an own goal as they overran their Brazilian opponents.

City manager Guardiola, who had previously won the competition three times, told the club’s website: “I am so proud of this club. What we have done is an outstanding achievement.

“To win this trophy is to be the best team in the world and our players, our coaches, our backroom staff, all of them work hard every single day to bring us this success.

“As a manager what I am most proud of (is) that we are always there. No matter how much we win, no matter what trophies we lift, we are there again to fight for the next one.

“To win the treble was truly special but to win two more trophies and now hold these five major titles shows the unique mentality of this team, of the club and its fans.

“It is something no other English team has ever achieved and we will always remember this incredible time we spent together.”

Foden, whose cross also forced the own goal, similarly hailed a momentous night in the club’s history.

The England midfielder said on TNT Sports: “We are not used to playing in this heat so it was difficult but we are delighted with the outcome. We’re over the ‘world’.

“This one is so important for the club. It’s the first time we’ve won it. We’re delighted and it’s massive for the club.”

Foden felt Fluminense, the Copa Libertadores winners, gave City a tough night.

“It was an unbelievable match,” he said. “Fair play to them, the way they play. I love the way they play – short passes.

“They are a great side and they didn’t make it easy but I thought the lads not only showed quality but heart and determination.”

Manchester City added the Club World Cup to last season’s treble with an emphatic 4-0 win over Brazilian side Fluminense in Jeddah on Friday.

Julian Alvarez struck twice, setting them on their way after just 40 seconds and wrapping up victory late on, while Phil Foden forced an own goal and grabbed the other himself.

It was manager Pep Guardiola’s fourth triumph in the competition but one that came at a cost as influential midfielder Rodri was forced off in the second half with an injury.

City, who were again without striker Erling Haaland due to a foot problem, now face an anxious wait over the Spaniard’s fitness ahead of the resumption of their Premier League title defence at Everton next Wednesday.

Rodri, who limped off after a challenge from Alexsander, has already missed four games through suspension this season and City have lost them all.

Yet for now City can celebrate their fifth trophy of 2023, having also claimed the European Super Cup in August.

They were far too strong for the ageing Copa Libertadores winners, who repeatedly invited pressure on to themselves.

City were gifted the perfect start when veteran former Real Madrid captain Marcelo – one of seven in the Fluminense starting line-up aged 33 or over – found Nathan Ake with an attempted crossfield pass from deep inside his own half.

Ake wasted no time as he thumped a long-range shot against a post and there was nothing goalkeeper Fabio could do as Alvarez crouched to make sure the rebound bounced in off his chest.

City did have a scare when Ederson gave the ball away and then brought down German Cano but were spared by an offside flag.

Apart from that, Fluminense rarely threatened and City doubled their lead when Rodri played in Foden and his ball across the box deflected off Nino and looped into the net.

Ederson was called upon to keep out a Jhon Arias header just before the break, but City almost claimed another when Jack Grealish tested Fabio from distance.

Fabio also produced a good double save to deny Foden and Bernardo Silva in quick succession early in the second half.

City’s third came as Rodri attempted to run off his injury, with Alvarez getting free down the left and crossing for Foden to slide in after 72 minutes.

Rodri was removed moments later, but Alvarez put the seal on success with a clean strike two minutes from time.

Pep Guardiola urged his Manchester City players to seize a potential “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity after reaching the Club World Cup final.

The Champions League winners set up a clash with Brazilian side Fluminense in Friday’s showpiece in Jeddah with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds on Tuesday.

City needed an own goal in first-half stoppage time to get their campaign up and running in Saudi Arabia, but strikes from Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva after the break secured a straightforward victory.

City manager Guardiola told reporters at a press conference said: “We didn’t win it (before) – it’s the first time Manchester City are here.

“This is the last step – a title the club doesn’t have, so we’ll go for it.

“To play this final you have to have done incredible things – mainly to win the Champions League.

“Once we are here, maybe it is a trophy we play for once in a lifetime.

“It’s against Fluminense, a South American team, experienced, a lot of quality. I saw yesterday how good they are.

“But we are there. Tomorrow we will start to see Fluminense and try to do a good performance and win the title.”

City were without Erling Haaland for a fourth successive game due to a foot injury but were still far too strong for the Asian Champions League winners.

They had already created numerous chances before defender Marius Hoibraten turned into his own net to give City the lead.

Reds boss Maciej Skorza said: “They are the best team in the world in my opinion, but our plan didn’t work in the perfect way.

“We expected that possession would be huge in favour of Manchester City. We had our plan for counter-attacks, but this didn’t happen.

“Maybe this is the big difference in the physical aspect between the two teams and lack of experience of playing teams like City.”

Pep Guardiola says he is “very pleased and excited” that Manchester City are taking part in the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia over the coming days.

The treble winners go into the tournament after a slump in results, dropping points in five of their last six Premier League games to leave them fourth in the table.

Playing Club World Cup matches on Tuesday and Friday, they do not return to league action until December 27, by which time there could be a considerable gap between them and the top of the table.

Having seen his side held to a 2-2 draw at home by Crystal Palace on Saturday, Guardiola was asked if the tournament in Saudi Arabia had come at the worst possible time for City, and he said: “No – we love to go to play the (Club) World Cup.

“To go there you have to win the Champions League. I’m very pleased and excited to go there and try to win it, of course.

“The schedule is what it is, the results are what they are and you have to accept it.”

Guardiola stressed with regard to the situation in the league that City must “win games and depend on ourselves”.

Prior to Saturday’s contest, they drew 4-4 with Chelsea, 1-1 with Liverpool and 3-3 with Tottenham and lost 1-0 to Aston Villa before winning 2-1 at Luton.

The Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Palace matches saw City concede late equalisers – on Saturday, after City had led 2-0 and Jean-Philippe Mateta pulled a 76th-minute goal back for the visitors, Michael Olise levelled with a penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage-time.

And when asked why they were unable to close out games, Guardiola said “I would like to know,” adding: “Don’t give away that penalty, and the game will be over. The last minutes, 2-1…we have to control it better.”

City’s trip to Saudi Arabia will see them play Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the semis on Tuesday, with the final and third-place play-off then taking place on Friday.

Guardiola said: “The Champions League is more important, absolutely.

“But to play this tournament that we have never played before – you need to be there. And we are going to fly there and see the environment, how it is, and play against Urawa the best as possible to deserve to get to the final.

“Of course, it’s nice. Years ago we could not imagine to be there and we are there.”

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City did not deserve to win after a late fightback from Crystal Palace saw them held to a 2-2 draw in a dramatic finale at the Etihad Stadium.

City dominated possession and looked to be cruising at 2-0 up following goals from Jack Grealish in the first half and Rico Lewis nine minutes into the second.

But Palace hit back with a 76th-minute Jean-Philippe Mateta goal before Michael Olise equalised in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a penalty awarded after Phil Foden caught Mateta in the box.

Dropping points for the fifth time in six Premier League matches, in their last outing before heading to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, leaves the champions in fourth place, three points behind leaders Liverpool, who host Manchester United on Sunday.

Boss Guardiola, whose side had drawn 4-4 with Chelsea, 1-1 with Liverpool and 3-3 with Tottenham and lost 1-0 to Aston Villa prior to last Sunday’s 2-1 win at Luton, said: “It is not bad luck, it was deserved, we gave away two points.

“When you give this penalty, you deserve it. You see the chances we created, the chances we concede, it’s quite similar, except the Chelsea game, all this season. But we are not able to close the game.

“There was a chance (for Palace) in the first half…but until the (Mateta) goal, they didn’t do anything.

“So the team was really, really good. But at the end, when you give Crystal Palace this penalty, you don’t deserve it. It’s like the penalty for Chelsea (Cole Palmer’s late equaliser).

“The games against Spurs, Liverpool, today, were excellent, but we were not able to win the game. What has happened is because we are not consistent enough to close the games, and many reasons.”

Guardiola denied City were not playing with the same intensity for the final 20 minutes, before adding: “18-yard box, you have to be careful, and we were not. We don’t deserve to win.”

Treble-winners City, who were once again without injured forward Erling Haaland, are now set to play Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, with the final taking lace on Friday.

Guardiola said: “Six, seven-hour flight with the result, just three days to recover, three days for a potential final – it is what it is. Now we are down and we lift as quick as possible and go to compete there.”

Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City may need to seek a replacement for Kalvin Phillips in January if the England midfielder moves on.

Phillips, 28, is expected to leave the Etihad next month in search of regular first-team football, having been unable to force his way into Guardiola’s side in the 18 months since his £42million switch from Leeds.

And while Guardiola insisted he was not thinking about the January market, that might change if he was left short of numbers in midfield, where City have struggled any time their regular enforcer Rodri has been missing through injury or suspension.

“Right now I don’t have anything in my mind,” Guardiola said. “It depends if they leave or don’t leave. Some players stay, some players leave. It depends on the squad, it depends on young players and if you can rely on them or not in some moments.”

Only last week, Guardiola appeared to effectively confirm Phillips would not be able to turn things around at City, saying: “I visualise the team and I struggle a little bit to see him (in it).”

Several clubs have been linked with a January move for the Yorkshireman.

Asked specifically if Phillips’ situation could change things for City, Guardiola said: “Kalvin is a player with us, I don’t want to anticipate absolutely anything. Everyone knows the situation he has.

“It depends if it happens. If it happens we talk. The market in January is not easy…We still have incredible things to play for, and after we decide.”

Next week City will be playing for the Club World Cup for the first time in their history after last season’s treble success.

The team are due to fly to Saudi Arabia after Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace – with both Erling Haaland and the injured Kevin De Bruyne due to make the trip regardless of whether they will be fit to play.

“It’s a competition we have never won, everyone will be there,” Guardiola said.

“I want the players not to be desperate to win, (but) to play two games, win the first one and get the credit to play the final. If we don’t win it, hopefully we win the Champions League in the future to be back. Two football games, do what we have to do.

“We learn from the Champions League in the past. In life you don’t know what will happen… the motivation, the feeling we’ve never won, it’s important. Winning helps to win. Winning against Palace will help by far.”

As enticing as the prize on offer next week is, Guardiola warned against looking past Saturday’s match.

“This is my job, I will warn (the players) or let them know,” he said. “It has always been difficult with Roy (Hodgson), or Patrick (Vieira) before, Crystal Palace have always been tough.

“Everyone has to be involved to play quick, be patient, transitions, set-pieces, good on second balls, the physicality is amazing. Always we struggle.

“At Selhurst Park it’s normal, but at Selhurst Park we perform better than at the Etihad. It happened, we lost a lot of points, they do it really well.”

After years of near misses, 2023 was when everything came together on the pitch for Manchester City and they finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy.

Their triumph on a glorious June evening in Istanbul, sealed with a fine Rodri strike against Inter Milan, capped a memorable campaign in which they also retained the Premier League and won the FA Cup.

It was a treble achieved only once previously, by Manchester United, and City left their rivals in no doubt as to where the power now lies along the way as they swatted them aside at Wembley.

Ilkay Gundogan scored the fastest goal recorded in an FA Cup final, after just 13 seconds, as City prevailed in an all-Manchester showpiece that was more convincing than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.

The manner in which City won the title was just as impressive, clawing back an eight-point deficit in the spring to overhaul Arsenal, the highlight being a stunning 4-1 defeat of the Gunners in April.

The intensity of that performance was matched over two legs against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, with the 4-0 win at the Etihad Stadium leaving few in any doubt this was a side destined for greatness.

Erling Haaland finished the 2022-23 campaign with an extraordinary 52 goals to his name yet the story of City’s season was of a fine team tuned to perfection by Pep Guardiola.

But a large cloud still hangs over the club, after they were charged with 115 historical breaches of financial regulations by the Premier League in February.

Elsewhere, Manchester United returned to trophy-winning ways by claiming the Carabao Cup and Newcastle emerged as a new force by snatching a Champions League spot.

West Ham won their first major trophy since 1980 as they triumphed in the Europa Conference League, a success that finally earned silverware for their veteran manager David Moyes. Beating Fiorentina in the final also provided a fitting farewell for Declan Rice, who later joined Arsenal.

Everton evaded relegation by the skin of their teeth with Leicester facing the drop instead, just six years after winning the Premier League. Luton, a mere 10 years after playing in the National League, defied the odds to win promotion.

Celtic won the domestic treble north of the border while on the international front, England and Scotland both qualified for Euro 2024. Wales will hope to join them.

The women’s game was dominated by the World Cup in Australia. England enjoyed a fine run to the final but fell at the last hurdle as Spain took the glory in a game that became overshadowed by post-match controversy involving Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales.

The Women’s Super League was won, for a fourth year in succession, by Chelsea.

Former ballboy Micah Hamilton and fellow youngster Oscar Bobb struck as a much-changed Manchester City ended the Champions League group stage with a 3-2 win at Red Star Belgrade.

Kalvin Phillips also joined the two 20-year-olds on the scoresheet with a late penalty after manager Pep Guardiola rotated his squad for the Group G dead rubber at the Rajko Mitic Stadium.

Manchester-born academy product Hamilton marked his debut with a superb strike in the 19th minute before Norwegian Bobb, filling in for compatriot Erling Haaland up front, added the second after 62 minutes.

Hwang In-beom pulled one back but Phillips gave City breathing space with his first goal for the club after a foul on Hamilton before Aleksandar Katai headed a late home consolation.

The result meant holders City, who had already secured top spot, finished the group phase with a maximum haul of 18 points while winless Red Star ended bottom.

With City facing Crystal Palace before travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup next week, Guardiola not only gave chances to Hamilton and Bobb but brought in fringe players such as Stefan Ortega and Phillips.

In all he made nine changes and, initially, intensity was lacking as Red Star carved out the first opportunity with Osman Bukari’s shot being blocked by John Stones.

Yet City still controlled most of the possession and Hamilton took full advantage of their first serious attack.

Jack Grealish picked out Matheus Nunes and the Portuguese prodded on for Hamilton, cutting inside from the right, to take up the attack.

Hamilton raced into the area and beat Red Star captain Aleksandar Dragovic on the outside before lashing a shot into the top corner from a tight angle.

The hosts responded with Kosta Nedeljkovic turning inside the box and curling narrowly over but City threatened again as Bobb had an effort blocked.

Hamilton almost created another goal for Bobb when he fired in a dangerous low ball from the right but the latter could not make contact at the far post. Phillips, making a rare start, then shot wide.

Hamilton went close again early in the second half when he curled a low effort just wide but City needed Ortega to keep them level.

The German first produced a good reaction save to keep out a Cherif Ndiaye volley at close range and then pushed away a firm strike from distance from Guelor Kanga.

Bobb then took centre stage as he doubled City’s lead just after the hour. He picked up possession from Rico Lewis and opted against the return pass, instead wrong-footing the defenders with a weaving run and sliding a low finish inside the far post.

Red Star rallied and, after Jovan Mijatovic hit the post, Hwang beat Ortega with a low strike to reduce the deficit after linking up with Bukari.

Yet Phillips made no mistake from the spot five minutes from time after Hamilton was brought down by Nasser Djiga and that proved decisive as Katai headed a second Red Star goal in stoppage time.

Erling Haaland will miss Manchester City’s final Champions League group game at Red Star Belgrade but is set to return to training on Thursday, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

The prolific Norwegian missed the Premier League win at Luton on Sunday with a foot problem and has not travelled to Serbia for Wednesday’s European dead rubber.

It remains unclear if the 23-year-old will be fit for the visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday but Guardiola has suggested the player could soon be back in action.

The City boss told reporters at a press conference: “He will be back on Thursday, I think. We will see how he feels.

“I don’t know right now (when he will be back) but the next press conference I could be more precise.”

City are also without Jeremy Doku in Belgrade because of a muscular problem while Kevin De Bruyne, who has been out since August, is not yet ready to rejoin the squad.

Goalkeeper Ederson is also sitting out that game, handing an opportunity to deputy Stefan Ortega.

There is nothing riding on the game at the Rajko Mitic Stadium with holders City having already won Group G and Red Star, who lost 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium in September, condemned to last place.

Consequently, Guardiola intends to make some changes as he looks ahead to the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia next week, although he insists he will continue to demand the highest standards.

“We approach the game like we did the first game in Manchester, the same way,” he said. “The players have to perform. We’ve prepared really well. I hope we can do a good game.

“But of course we are going to rotate some players because after we have three days, travel, semi-final, potential final.

“Tomorrow I’ll be very pleased to see many players who didn’t play lately involved.”

One of those players to feature will be Ortega, who joined Guardiola for pre-match media duties.

The German said: “I’m happy for every game I get here and tomorrow could be the next chance for me to show my best version.”

Pep Guardiola accepts it is down to him to deliver the “punch in the face” that can reignite Manchester City’s season.

The treble winners have faltered in recent weeks after successive Premier League draws at the hands of Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were followed by defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

City will hope to get back to winning ways as they travel to Luton on Sunday.

Manager Guardiola said: “I’m able. I put a lot of stress on myself. I will help the team. I don’t know how, but I will help the team to come back.

“Will it be enough? I don’t know. The contenders are so strong but that’s why I have to be ready and I have to have the feeling.

“I never found a football player who, when they go out on the pitch, doesn’t want to do well, doesn’t want to run, doesn’t want to fight or doesn’t want to be positive for the team or for success.

“But sometimes after winning you want to try to do it, but you don’t do it. For what? Because you won a lot and you need a punch in your face. You need it now.

“That will be to overcome the situation. I don’t know how we’ll react but that is a challenge, to see if the team can do it.

“I’m the boss. I have to help them. They need me and I have to be there – the right words, the right training, the right message, the right selection, the right way to play.”

Guardiola used a culinary reference to explain how City’s current run can be used to spice up his side’s campaign and how they should savour victory if they triumph at Kenilworth Road.

“When you win a lot it is another macaroni pasta to eat,” the Spaniard said. “The last six months just macaroni, macaroni.

“You have to realise it’s difficult. When you realise at Luton, if you win, wow. That is what it is to be in a good way and you give credit to that.

“It’s not just when you win the semi-finals of the Champions League you say how good we are.

“Give credit every game, have the satisfaction we have done it. We had that and we have to recover it.”

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City side face a challenge to get back to winning ways at Luton this weekend.

The champions have gone four games without a Premier League win for the first time since 2017 after successive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were followed by defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

They will be expected to put that behind them at Kenilworth Road on Sunday but the promoted Hatters have produced some battling performances on their top-flight return and Guardiola expects another.

The City manager said: “They are doing really well for the way they play. Top clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal have struggled to win against them and it will be no different for us.

“But at the same time we’re ready for the challenge. We’ll keep working. That’s what we have to do.

“We’ll go to Luton, adapt for the pitch, the team, the style they play. They’ve done really good things but we will try impose our game and break their dynamic.”

City’s form has raised eyebrows with some observers questioning their hunger or whether they have become complacent after all their recent successes.

Yet none of this is a concern to Guardiola, who has guided City to five Premier League titles as well as Champions League glory.

The Spaniard said: “When you are winning a lot of games you are the best team in the world, when you are not winning it’s a crisis. We know it. It’s always exaggerated one way or another.

“What is important is to face the reality. We’re not used to playing four games without winning but we played against top teams. They’re always difficult.

“It is not the first time we have been in this position. In these eight years we’ve always had periods where we don’t get results.

“We have to try to end them as soon as possible but it happens, so we face it, challenge it. That is the situation, let’s do it, let’s go for it.”

City have Rodri and Jack Grealish available again after suspension and Jeremy Doku will be assessed after missing the Villa game through injury.

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City side face a challenge to get back to winning ways at Luton this weekend.

The champions have gone four games without a Premier League win for the first time since 2017 after successive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were followed by defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

They will be expected to put that behind them at Kenilworth Road on Sunday but the promoted Hatters have produced some battling performances on their top-flight return and Guardiola expects another.

The City manager said: “They are doing really well for the way they play. Top clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal have struggled to win against them and it will be no different for us.

“But at the same time we’re ready for the challenge. We’ll keep working. That’s what we have to do.

“We’ll go to Luton, adapt for the pitch, the team, the style they play. They’ve done really good things but we will try impose our game and break their dynamic.”

City’s form has raised eyebrows with some observers questioning their hunger or whether they have become complacent after all their recent successes.

Yet none of this is a concern to Guardiola, who has guided City to five Premier League titles as well as Champions League glory.

The Spaniard said: “When you are winning a lot of games you are the best team in the world, when you are not winning it’s a crisis. We know it. It’s always exaggerated one way or another.

“What is important is to face the reality. We’re not used to playing four games without winning but we played against top teams. They’re always difficult.

“It is not the first time we have been in this position. In these eight years we’ve always had periods where we don’t get results.

“We have to try to end them as soon as possible but it happens, so we face it, challenge it. That is the situation, let’s do it, let’s go for it.”

City have Rodri and Jack Grealish available again after suspension and Jeremy Doku will be assessed after missing the Villa game through injury.

Unai Emery was trying to keep a lid on the excitement levels after his Aston Villa side outclassed stuttering Manchester City in Wednesday’s 1-0 win to move above the defending champions and into third place.

Leon Bailey’s deflected strike in the 74th minute was enough to seal a 14th straight home win for Villa and add to the growing sense of belief that something special is brewing in the west Midlands.

Pep Guardiola declared that Emery’s side should “definitely” be considered among the title contenders after watching his depleted side struggle to contain a Villa team who had 22 shots at goal to City’s two.

But Emery played down any title talk and insisted there is still much work to do in developing his side, who face leaders Arsenal at home on Saturday.

“We created lots of chances and we controlled the attack in the high press,” Emery said. “We were believing. In my career, hopefully more in the next weeks, months and years I can continue improving as a coach and with the team I am trying to build.

“(The performance) was fantastic but we must keep a balance. The dressing room is happy, but the next challenge is on Saturday. (On Thursday) we are focusing again on Saturday.”

Wednesday night was Emery’s 50th game in charge. When the Spaniard arrived a little more than a year ago, Villa were near the foot of the table and fearing a relegation battle but he took them into the Europa Conference League and now the Champions League looks a genuine possibility.

Asked to reflect on his first 50 games, Emery pointed to last February, when back-to-back 4-2 home defeats at the hands of Leicester and Arsenal offered a learning moment.

“I can come back in my mind and think how we were when we started this process,” he said. “We lost against Leicester and Arsenal at home, 4-2. We couldn’t concede eight goals in two matches at home like we did.

“It was a key moment when we reacted in a meeting with the players, focusing more our idea and our style, building and being very demanding in it. I think the players, they reacted very well and the way we did, we started doing in that moment, I think we are still being very demanding and keeping it.”

City boss Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Villa’s performance but admitted he needed to change the dynamic of his own side, now winless in four league outings as they lose ground in their title defence.

The absence of Rodri and Jack Grealish through suspension, plus the loss of Jeremy Doku to injury, limited Guardiola’s options and they lost the midfield battle.

“In the first half, we struggled to follow what we spoke (about),” Guardiola said. “We adjusted something at half-time and it was much better and the team had a better dynamic but we didn’t find the players to make the assist or cross or pass.”

“We didn’t have the feeling that we are going to do something and we missed it…We have to accept it when a team is better and recognise it.

“We have to change the dynamic on Sunday at Luton.”

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