Guardiola omits one team from title contention and doubts whether two can ‘join’ main contenders

Matt Stead
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola debates with the referees
Pep Guardiola is not sure whether Newcastle can "join" the title race

Pep Guardiola has assessed the challengers to Manchester City’s Premier League throne, casting doubt on whether two clubs will “join” the contenders.

No team has ever won the English top-flight league championship four times in a row but Manchester City, after claiming the title in 2021, 2022 and 2023, top the Premier League table after 12 games.

They lead Liverpool and Arsenal by a point, with Tottenham a further point back; Guardiola considers all of them to be in contention.

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“Absolutely,” was Guardiola’s obvious call as to whether Liverpool were title challengers. “Arsenal will be too, I see them as so, so solid. Spurs even, the two defeats they had lately, the feeling when I see the way they are playing and with one game a week, I think they will be there.”

But the Spaniard did not even mention Aston Villa, a point behind Tottenham and four and five ahead of Manchester United and Newcastle respectively, both of whom Guardiola referred to while casting doubt on their credentials.

“Chelsea start to recover and have one game a week,” he said. “I think the four or five contenders are there. I don’t know if Newcastle will join, maybe United will join us but many things can happen.”

Manchester City will hope to strike a decisive blow against Liverpool at the Etihad on Saturday lunchtime – Jurgen Klopp is right to be a little peeved about that – as the two rivals go head to head for the biggest prizes yet again.

Klopp is unique in boasting a winning record against Guardiola from their many meetings in Germany and England, leading to a friendly rivalry better the pair.

Asked whether he considers Klopp to be his greatest rival, Guardiola replied: “Yes, by far. Because we have faced each other a thousand million times.

“Absolutely, he made me better, he helped me reflect on a lot of things with the problems they have created for us, it’s part of when you are many years in this business, him and his teams, here and Dortmund have always been big rivals, good games for both, both teams have a positive approach to the games and always attractive.

“I’m pretty sure he made me a better manager through his teams, and of course, the way we play for them is good with the transitions, they have a lot of space in behind, they are fantastic with the runs, they are a fantastic team, fantastic legs, a top side, no doubt.”

Gary Neville recently explained who he would choose between Klopp and Guardiola to take over Manchester United “tomorrow”, while Mario Gotze, one of few players to work under both, said Klopp “did it best”.