Pep Guardiola turns 50 this month but the Manchester City boss insists: ‘I’m better and I’ll go on and on’ as the Spaniard prepares his side for difficult test with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea
- Manchester City travel to Chelsea in Sunday’s crucial Premier League encounter
- Pep Guardiola cannot afford any more slip-ups in Man City’s title challenge
- Guardiola turns 50 this month but has not won the Champions League in decade
- The City boss had 14 trophies at the same age as Chelsea boss Frank Lampard
Pep Guardiola was a two-time Champions League winner at 40. This month the legendary Manchester City manager turns 50 and believes his work has improved since the younger version introduced tiki-taka to Barcelona.
‘Of course I am better. Definitely,’ insisted Guardiola, whose Covid-affected City team face Chelsea today without five players, leaving US goalkeeper Zack Steffen set to make his Premier League debut.
‘Experience helps you in this job, especially the way I live my profession. Before I thought I am going to retire soon and maybe now I am thinking I am going to retire older. Fifty already is a nice age.’
Pep Guardiola has been reflecting on his career as the iconic Spaniard turns 50 this month
The Man City manager had won the Champions League twice at 40, but has not won it since
Guardiola’s opponent today, Frank Lampard, is 41 and regularly described as a bright, young manager. The Catalan was the same age when he left Barcelona with 14 trophies in the bag.
He now has 29, including two Premier League titles, though European success has eluded him at the Etihad.
Lampard is at a club where he was idolised as a player and Guardiola, from his own Nou Camp experiences, can understand the pressure and responsibility of that.
‘You feel it more because the bumps are more present,’ he said. ‘Lampard spent most of his football life at Chelsea and for sure it is special. He won everything there.
Guardiola’s (right) City take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in a crucial top-flight clash on Sunday
‘I think he wants more than ever to do well but football is a tough business for everyone. He is a top guy, an incredible person and an excellent manager.’
The extra challenges for all clubs this season has made the Premier League a more level playing field. Liverpool’s three top centre-halves are injured while City have confirmed they will be without Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker at Stamford Bridge following a Covid outbreak.
Though they won’t announce the names of other players who have tested positive, Brazil goalkeeper Ederson has revealed he has been self-isolating.
Manchester City travel to Chelsea on Sunday with several players missing due to coronavrius
Adding to the intrigue on the pitch is the revival of City’s neighbours Manchester United who are joint-top with Liverpool and mounting their first title challenge since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. City also meet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.
‘United are there because they deserve it,’ said Guardiola. ‘I expected United to be there all the time since I arrived but it could not always be possible, especially in the Premier League.
‘I am sure Ole is happier than me but I am not much concerned about United. I am so busy with what we have to do day-by-day with the players we have. Before I landed here people said that in the Premier League, everyone can lose to everyone. I didn’t see it until now.’
Guardiola (middle) also claimed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s (left) Man Untied can win the title
City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan agrees this season is more open.
‘It is attractive and good for the Premier League but there is not really a team in Europe or the world that is not really struggling,’ he said. ‘That is why we need to try even harder not to drop unnecessary points. Then it can be a great season for us again.’
Gundogan, who has recovered from his own earlier difficult bout of Covid, has played in a more attacking role in recent games and scored in consecutive home games against West Brom and Newcastle.
City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (middle) believes this year’s title race is as open as ever
‘I played more of a No 8 than a No 6. Before that, I played more of a holding midfielder role together with Rodri. It is different and every position needs adaptation,’ he said.
‘I think I am a player who can adapt quickly and the manager knows I am quite flexible.
‘I try my best, it doesn’t matter where I am playing. That has always been a quality of mine.’