10 Mar Pep Guardiola focused solely on Stoke as Manchester City close in on title
Manchester City will hope to take another stride towards winning the Premier League on Monday before putting their title charge on hold for three weeks.
Pep Guardiola’s league leaders will bid to claim the first of the four victories they need to secure the crown as they face Stoke at the bet365 Stadium.
Yet that will be their last action until facing Everton at Goodison Park on March 31.
Next week’s scheduled game against Brighton has been postponed owing to the Seagulls’ continuing involvement in the FA Cup while there is also an international break before that next fixture.
Guardiola wants to sign off in positive fashion but is taking nothing for granted against the relegation-threatened Potters, despite thrashing them 7-2 earlier in the season.
The City boss said: “It’s always a tough game, Stoke City, and people talked about that before we came.
“We were lucky last season to win there. When we face teams who are fighting to stay in the Premier League it is complicated.
“I think in all the leagues in Europe, at the end everybody plays to win titles, to be in the Champions League, to be in the Europa League or to stay in the league and avoid relegation.
“So, in all the leagues, it always happens until the last four, five, six fixtures, everything can happen.”
Stoke was Guardiola’s first Premier League away game after taking over at City in 2016.
His side prevailed 4-1 but it took two late goals to kill off a second-half fightback from the hosts.
Guardiola wants his players to put thoughts of the title or the Champions League quarter-finals aside and concentrate on Stoke.
They will then use some of their break between fixtures to travel to Abu Dhabi, home of their owner Sheikh Mansour, for a warm-weather training camp.
Guardiola said: “We need to be relaxed, stay calm and think about Stoke City.
“After we go to train in Abu Dhabi and after the international break hopefully the players will come back safe without injuries and then we can think about Everton and the (Champions League) quarter-finals.”
Speaking further about Abu Dhabi, Guardiola said: “Instead of being here, where we have been fighting for eight months with the weather, we will go there and train the same way but in better conditions. And we will see our chairman.
“We did it last season and we will prepare for the last two months of the season.”