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Xavi Backs 'Born Winner' Pep Guardiola, Says He Will Target Champions League

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2019

Barcelona FC head coach Josep Guardiola (L) looks on as midfielder Xavi Hernandez streches during a training session at UCLA in Los Angeles on July 30, 2009. Barcelona will face the Los Angeles Galaxy on August 1 in Pasadena, California.  AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Barcelona legend Xavi has backed Pep Guardiola to get Manchester City back on track again and believes the coach will target UEFA Champions League success in the remainder of the campaign. 

City have dominated English football for the previous two seasons, winning back-to-back Premier League titles. However, in the current campaign they are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

Xavi excelled under the guidance of Guardiola during their time together at the Camp Nou. Speaking about his ex-boss, the former playmaker said he expects City to go all out for Champions League glory this term, per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror:

"Pep is a born winner. It will hurt him that City are so far behind Liverpool in the league—and he won't give up.

"He will be realistic, though. The gap is a big one, and at the moment it doesn't look likely that they can make it three titles in a row. With that in mind, I think there's a big chance Pep will prioritise the Champions League.

"They will be two big games coming up against Real Madrid—and maybe there will be a chance to rest players before these games that they wouldn't have if they were in a title race."

Although Xavi feels City will not give up in the title race, Guardiola said recently that it is "not realistic" to believe City can catch Liverpool. 

While there have been some murmurings about Guardiola's future, in recent years he has been one of the standout managers in world football. The two Premier League titles he's steered City to have been the gloss on a memorable decade for the club:

Man City Xtra @City_Xtra

📆 #ManCity | The 2010s: 👕 562 Games Played ✅ 365 Wins 🤝 89 Draws ❌ 108 Defeats ⚽️ 1,247 Goals Scored 🥅 534 Goals Conceded 🏆 Premier League [x4] 🏆 League Cup [x4] 🏆 Community Shield [x3] 🏆 FA Cup [x2] 🤯 WHAT. A. DECADE. #MCFC @ManCity https://t.co/fYZe47zfzn

City have made history numerous times under Guardiola, accumulating 100 points in the 2017-18 Premier League season and then becoming the first English team to win a domestic treble last year.

The one competition that has escaped the coach since his arrival at the Etihad Stadium is the Champions League title. And with the Premier League gone, this term may be the ideal opportunity to go all out for it.

Sam Lee of The Athletic doesn't believe the team can shift focus away from the Premier League completely, 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!

Guardiola twice won the Champions League with Barcelona, although his last success came in 2011, when the Blaugrana beat Manchester United.

Already Guardiola is a legendary figure at City given the success he has brought to the club. Even though a successful defence of their Premier League title appears out of reach this season, if he was able to add a Champions League title to his haul of trophies in Manchester, it would complete a remarkable legacy at the Etihad Stadium.

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