LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the prospect of winning the Premier League title in next week’s derby against Manchester United was secondary to the need to beat Liverpool in the Champions League last eight.
Saturday’s 3-1 win over Everton means City will be crowned champions if they beat United at the Etihad on Saturday.
But for Guardiola, gloating over United is of much less importance than getting through the Champions League quarter-final against their other North West rivals.
“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.
“Now we are closer than ever. We have one game to win. If we are not able to win, we have six more chances. We are so so close and so happy with the performance. Now it is one more game and we will be champions,” Guardiola told reporters.
Guardiola is well aware that the situation is akin to Real Madrid or Barcelona winning La Liga with a win in a Clasico but knows he cannot afford to get caught up in the supporters’ enthusiasm for that prospect.
“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,” he said.
“We have to go to Anfield with good feelings. Now we have a few days to prepare for this game,” he said of Wednesday’s first leg.
“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 if that makes sense ahead of the April 10 second leg against Juergen Klopp’s side at the Etihad.
But City captain Vincent Kompany, who has been with the club 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 said.
“It will be lively and even spicy but I don’t mind. Manchester United have seven days to prepare, but we need momentum so we need a good Champions League game,” Kompany added.
Some Everton supporters applauded City from the field after their hugely impressive display at Goodison Park and Guardiola joked that might not be purely an appreciation of their performance.
“Maybe (it was) because we are going to play against Liverpool,” laughed the Spaniard.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond