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Sunday 21 October 2018

Pep: 'Premier League is my primary motivation'

FOCUS: Pep Guardiola. Pic: Reuters
FOCUS: Pep Guardiola. Pic: Reuters

Pep Guardiola wants to establish Manchester City as the dominant English force after admitting retaining the Premier League title is his primary motivation.

City stormed to their first league crown under Guardiola last season, becoming the first team in the top flight to break the 100-point barrier.

Guardiola, though, is used to sustained success, having won three league titles each at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and sees what his two former clubs and Juventus have achieved in the last decade in their domestic divisions as a yardstick for City.

The Spaniard, who is set to rest several of his stars as they begin the defence of the League Cup at Oxford tonight, said: "The first priority is the Premier League, that is the nicest one.

"When I see, for example, three teams like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus in 10 years they won seven leagues, they show me they are the best teams.

"We want to be consistent and solid in that competition.

"After in the knockout games we want to improve on our mistakes we had in the past in knock-out games - to be more solid, avoiding mistakes and we're going to try (to go for) it (in the League Cup)."

City bounced back from their surprise defeat to Lyon in their Champions League opener last week by thrashing lowly Cardiff 5-0 on Saturday to move up to second in the table, two points behind early front-runners Liverpool.

Changes

There is likely to be wholesale changes for the trip to Sky Bet League One outfit Oxford, with Guardiola eager to give fringe members of his first-team, such as Oleksandr Zinchenko and Brahim Diaz, an outing.

Zinchenko has not had any game time for City this season while fellow midfielder Diaz's only involvement came as a substitute in City's Community Shield win over Chelsea at Wembley last month. Brazilian defender Danilo could make his return from an ankle injury while the likes of Nicolas Otamendi and Riyad Mahrez could feature at the Kassam Stadium, having had limited involvement for City so far in this campaign.

Guardiola said: "I have been quite clear the guys that are going to play, all of them in the first team.

"Danilo is coming back, Aleks (Zinchenko) and Brahim, so some players are going to play because they need rhythm.

"Nico (Otamendi) is to play. They don't play too much in the last month so we're going to play a lot of players that haven't played."

Guardiola is contemplating whether to hand a City debut to teenage goalkeeper Arijanet Muric, who was recalled from a season-long loan at NAC Breda last month following an injury to back-up custodian Claudio Bravo.

Muric has been on the bench for City's last five games and will come into the reckoning if Guardiola decides to give first-choice Ederson a rest.

Guardiola added: "I don't know. I haven't made a decision. I want to speak with Xabi (Mancisidor, head of goalkeeping)."

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