Football

Title win in derby not as important as beating Reds: Guardiola

City boss Guardiola prioritises Champions League progress over beating United

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the prospect of winning the English Premier League title in Sunday's derby against Manchester United was secondary to the need to beat Liverpool in the Champions League last eight on Thursday morning (Singapore time).

Yesterday morning's 3-1 win over Everton means City will be crowned champions if they beat United at the Etihad on Sunday, reported Reuters.

"I understand people are going to talk about United but now all the decisions are about Liverpool," Guardiola said, after first-half goals from Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling secured yet another win for his side - who have a 16-point lead with seven games remaining.

The Spaniard is well aware that the situation is akin to Real Madrid or Barcelona winning La Liga with an El Clasico victory, but knows he cannot afford to get caught up in the supporters' enthusiasm for that prospect.

He said: "For the fans, it is significant. It is special. It is important we win - no matter where. (But) of course, the most important thing is these two games...

"Now our focus is the Champions League, so we are going to adapt the game against United for the Liverpool games before and after," he said.

"With the distance we have, we have to be focused on the Champions League and in the middle we have United - who of course we are going to try and beat and try and play - but the line-up will be thinking about Liverpool."

The suggestion from Guardiola was that he may rest some players for the derby ahead of the second leg against Juergen Klopp's side at the Etihad three days later.

But defender Aymeric Laporte believes winning the title by beating United would be a rare opportunity.

He told City's official website: "We have a chance (to win the league by beating United). It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we must try to get the win on Saturday."

City captain Vincent Kompany, who has been with the club for nearly 10 years, said he understood the desire of fans to celebrate in front of United's players and supporters.

"It would mean the world to our fans. I have lived in Manchester long enough to know what it means," the Belgian, 31, said.

SPICY

"It will be lively and even spicy, but I don't mind."

Former Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown, meanwhile, believes it is Kompany whom Liverpool should target on Thursday.

He told BT Sport: "Liverpool might be feeling if you can get in and around Kompany, you could trouble him. Everton did get some joy when they got high up the field."

Former England and United defender Rio Ferdinand agreed, telling BT Sport: "That's where I see a bit of a weakness. The Anfield crowd will demand they go face-to-face with City high up the pitch and win the ball early, like they do.

"Liverpool have the pace, power, belief and know-how... They have the belief to go toe-to-toe."

That belief has only swelled as a late Mohamed Salah goal helped the Reds see off bogey side Crystal Palace2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Jordan Henderson told Sky Sports: "It is a sign of a good team to win while not playing our best... We ground out the result and that gives us momentum for the game on Wednesday."

While Henderson's team got the better of City the last time they met in January, Graeme Souness believes neither his former team nor anyone else can stop City this season.

The former Reds captain and manager wrote in his Sunday Times column: "I expect City to go through and I have a sneaky feeling that they can go on and win the tournament this year.

"They're a team not showing inferiority on any level against anyone."

Football