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09 May 2021, Edition - 2126, Sunday

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Sports

Guardiola urges Manchester City to win ‘most important title’ after cup glory

https://www.theguardian.com/

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Pep Guardiola urged his Manchester City side to channel the momentum from their Carabao Cup final win against Tottenham and seal “the most important title of the season” by winning their next two Premier League games.

City ticked off one-third of a potential treble by deservedly winning at Wembley through Aymeric Laporte’s 82nd‑minute header, watched by 7,773 supporters in the biggest crowd to have attended a domestic game for more than 13 months. It was their fourth successive victory in this competition and they were given another boost by Manchester United’s goalless draw at Leeds earlier in the day, which means six points from their final five top-flight games would guarantee the title.

“Now we rest and prepare for the [Champions League semi-final] first leg against Paris Saint-Germain, then after that we are two games away from trying to win the most important title of the season,” Guardiola said.

“The Premier League is the nicest one, the one where I am most proud when we are able to do it. We are 10 points clear, we need two victories, and in between the games in this crazy schedule we are going to try to win the next one against Crystal Palace.”

The visit to Selhurst Park is preceded by the potentially defining match in Paris on Wednesday. Eyebrows were raised at the fact Guardiola picked such a formidable starting XI at Wembley given the pile‑up of big games but he explained he had weighed up the risks.

“We cannot deny one eye is always on the Champions League,” he said. “[But] I have to be honest with myself and I thought they were ready to play in this selection. We arrive in these last stages, as we did this season and in previous seasons, because we take every game seriously. If not it is impossible to win four Carabao Cups in a row.”

Guardiola said the victory against Spurs was “more than well deserved”, a fact reflected by the final shot tally of 21 to their opponents’ two. “I’m so delighted for the guys. It’s a good night for us to share with our people.”

Ryan Mason, who took charge six days after being named Tottenham’s interim head coach, played down suggestions Laporte should have been sent off for two yellow cards in the first half. Laporte fouled a breaking Lucas Moura twice but was booked only after the second occasion.

“I thought the first one was an absolute certain yellow,” Mason said. “It’s not the talking point because maybe he doesn’t make the second foul if he’s on a yellow. We’re just trying to get over the fact we’ve just lost a cup final. It’s difficult to take but we have to move on.”

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