MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola said the Premier League is more important than the Champions League with Manchester City still competing for both.
City have the chance to re-establish their 16-point lead at the top of the table when they face Arsenal on Thursday, four days after beating them in the Carabao Cup final.
And Guardiola insisted his side will remain focused despite City already landing their first silverware of the season and their huge lead at the top of the table.
“The fact is we are fighting for the most important title of the season by far,” Guardiola said at a news conference. “The Premier League, more than the Champions League, more than FA Cup, more than Carabao Cup, is enough argument to be focused and to stay focused because our next six fixtures are terrible in terms of the quality of the opponents. We have four games and, of course, we have a good position but it is not already done. We have still to win five or six games.
“When you think about Arsenal, you think about Chelsea, Tottenham, [Manchester] United and our away games — in Stoke City playing for the relegation, to go to Goodison Park where [Everton] always is [a] tough game — so we have a lot of tough games still to play and we have to remain focused.”
City will be without midfielder Fernandinho for Thursday’s game at the Emirates Stadium after he strained a hamstring in the Carabao Cup final, and Raheem Sterling is unlikely to be fit in time because of a hamstring injury.
Yaya Toure would seem a natural fit to replace Fernandinho, but the Ivorian has not played since Jan. 9 and has not been in the squad for six of City’s last nine matches.
“Raheem is much, much better,” Guardiola said. “I don’t know if he is able to play tomorrow but hopefully, Chelsea or Basel. Fernandinho is out for tomorrow’s game.
As for Toure, Guardiola said: “It depends on him. If he is coming back who he is, he is going to play.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola said that the club want academy product Phil Foden to stay for a long time, with sources telling ESPN FC that the England under-17 international is set to be awarded a new contract after he became a first-team regular.
“He knows, his family knows, his manager knows, we want to keep him with us for a long time,” Guardiola said. “He is a good player for the future. He has to grow up and make strong but the huge quality is there.”
Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.