Pep Guardiola Compares Premier League Title Race to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 26, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11:  Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on prior to the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has compared the Premier League title race to the battle for supremacy in men's tennis that's raged for years between Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

City lead Liverpool by two points, and Guardiola was reminded of the 2009-10 La Liga season when his Barcelona team pipped Real Madrid to the title by three points.

He made his tennis comparison when asked if the English top flight this term bears any similarities to that campaign in Spain, per Yahoo Sports:

"It was so nice because we did those 99 points when the year before we won the treble with Barcelona. To maintain that level...we did 99 points with someone else pushing us. We knew that if we dropped points Madrid were going to win the title.

"It's similar with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, no? They push one to be better than the other one because they know.

"We need it in sport, as athletes. They [the City players] know. I didn't tell them, but they know how strong Liverpool are.

"They know that we can't drop points because if we do Liverpool are going to win the league. I can say Liverpool or Chelsea and Tottenham are the same in this moment. Arsenal as well."

Guardiola welcomed the competition as he added: "To compete we need good opponents close and this season we have it, here and in Europe."

The Citizens finished 19 points clear of second in the last league campaign, but it looks as though the contest will be closer this time around. It took Guardiola's men 21 games to drop two points last term, but they drew twice in their opening eight matches in 2018-19.

Federer, 37, Nadal, 32, and Djokovic, 31, have for some years battled as the three modern greats of tennis, and sports writer Chris Goldsmith illustrated how their powers aren't waning:

Chris Goldsmith @TheTennisTalker

Another ATP season over! 🏆Australian Open : Roger Federer 🏆French Open : Rafa Nadal 🏆Wimbledon : Novak Djokovic 🏆US Open : Novak Djokovic 🏆ATP Finals : Alexander Zverev See You in 2019

City look to have attained some of that all-important consistency and are hoping to defend their Premier League crown in 2019, but Guardiola's comments are also a warning towards the fragility of success.

The Reds are two points behind City as things stand, and Tottenham Hotspur's 3-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday has pushed them into third, three points behind Liverpool and five points off the summit.

Despite Guardiola's comments on closeness, the first signs of a breakaway could emerge if City maintain form, although Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville implored the Merseysiders to battle on, per Anfield HQ:

Anfield HQ @AnfieldHQ

Gary Neville: “Liverpool are hanging on in there, and they have just got to stay really close to City. There have been times when I was part of teams where we were chasing and hunting down. Stay on the shoulder, stay close - it unnerves teams when you don't go away.”

The top two are the only sides to have gone unbeaten in the Premier League this term after 13 matches, and ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown hailed the Reds' back line in particular for the improvements they've made:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

If Liverpool keep a clean sheet today they will set a new club record for the fewest goals conceded at this stage of the season. @martinkeown5 is seriously impressed with the partnership of Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez. #bbcfootball https://t.co/FPWc1YPT88

Guardiola appears to be aware of those tweaks Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp has made to his game in the offseason, and he sees the contest as a motivator for his own side to improve.