Pep Guardiola: Manchester City Won't Prioritise Champions League over EPL Title

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2019

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said his side won't be prioritising the UEFA Champions League over the Premier League title despite slipping 14 points behind Liverpool.

City lost 2-1 to local rivals Manchester United on Saturday—their fourth league defeat of the season—while Liverpool eased to a 3-0 win at Bournemouth.

Per Goal's Jonathan Smith, when asked if their domestic struggles had shifted their focus to Europe, Guardiola said: "We are not thinking to win the Champions League. We are trying to win games, to win the next one. I am not thinking about how many points we need or how many points they have to drop."

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial put United ahead in the first half at the Etihad Stadium. Nicolas Otamendi bagged a late consolation, but City did not manage to find an equaliser.

Fox Soccer suggested the Sky Blues' hopes of winning a third consecutive Premier League title were over:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Man City have already dropped as many points in the Premier League this season as they did during the entire 2018/19 campaign. 😬 Title hopes over? https://t.co/R383vJiqsl

As OptaJoe illustrated, it would be unprecedented if City were to win the league from this position:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

14 - After their defeat to Man Utd, Man City are now 14 points behind league-leaders Liverpool; in English top-flight history, no side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many as 14 points behind the top side at the end of a day. Over? https://t.co/eZ5IuenpMK

According to Smith, the Citizen's total of 32 points from their first 16 matches marks Guardiola's worst start to a league campaign since he became a manager in 2008.

Guardiola noted City's need to improve:

"The reality is we are 14 points [behind] for the mistakes we have done, for the quality of our opponents and especially as well the things we cannot control. That is the reality, but we have to continue.

"We are at the beginning of December, and we have other competitions to play and other games to fight and improve on that and maybe it is going to help us for the future, so we need to live that as a club to be better."

He suggested they may not be able to compete with Europe's elite, though. He told Sky Sports (h/t Reuters, via ESPN FC): "That is the level we face, against Liverpool, United, Barcelona, [Real] Madrid, Juventusthey are the teams we have to face and the reality is maybe we are not able now to compete with them."

Given City's title hopes are now dangling by a thread, it's understandable they might look to other competitions to deliver silverware that can salvage their season.

The Champions League, as the most prestigious and lucrative of the cup competitions they're competing in, is naturally the one that would be prioritised in that case.

City have only won one European trophy in their history, too—the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1970—as the Champions League has eluded them since their rise to the top of the English game in the last decade.

The Athletic's Sam Lee sees little sense in changing their priorities at this stage, though:

Sam Lee @SamLee

If the points gap is huge in April then I’m sure they’ll do the opposite of what they did for the Spurs away leg, i.e. rest a few big guns for a league game and keep them fresh for the European game. But that’s gonna be April. It’s not even Christmas yet. Focus on playing well!

Indeed, City only have one more group stage match to play in the competition, and they've already secured top spot in Group C. As such, they won't play another meaningful game in Europe until February.

In the meantime, although it seems unlikely they can reel in Liverpool, they might as well keep their focus on their domestic efforts and re-evaluate the situation when the Champions League resumes next year.