Pep Guardiola insists he has not even thought about the wider significance of Manchester City’s current unbeaten run.
City have moved into strong Premier League title contention on the back of eight games without defeat, six of which have been victories.
In a season presenting more difficulties than most, it has been a strong statement of intent by Guardiola’s side, but the City manager claims he does not think about such things.
“When we have had incredible runs I have never thought about how many wins or how many marathons we have to do to win something,” said Guardiola, whose team host Crystal Palace on Sunday evening.
“When we won 18 games in a row in the season we got 100 points, after the win in the second game we said, ‘OK, let’s try to win the next one’. Then the next one, then after that the next one.
“I never expect my players to win a lot of games. I want to win the next one, and the next one is Crystal Palace.
“This is the best way. When you dream you want to be top of the league, you want to be in a better position when you don’t play good, you are not going to achieve it.
“I don’t care how many games we are able to win or not win in a row – absolutely zero. It is just Crystal Palace – Zaha, Eze, Benteke, Roy Hodgson, Milivojevic.”
Similarly, Guardiola says he has not thought about what result he might prefer from the top-of-the-table clash between rivals Liverpool and Manchester United which takes place before City’s game on Sunday.
He said: “Crystal Palace – it’s the only thing I want, I want to beat them. The rest, honestly, I don’t care. We will play knowing the result because they play earlier than us, but I don’t know.
“The last two seasons against Crystal Palace at home we got one point. That’s why the only concern I have is winning against Crystal Palace.”
City are again without striker Sergio Aguero, who continues to isolate as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are out with muscular problems.
Roy Hodgson admits his players will once again have to show “enormous powers of concentration” and discipline if they are to continue their good run of results at the Etihad Stadium, having drawn 2-2 last season and left with a shock victory a year earlier.
Palace will go to Manchester on the back of a goalless draw at Arsenal – a match which they could have easily won after seeing James Tomkins hit the crossbar with a header.
“You can make it difficult for teams but it takes such an awful lot of effort on behalf of players,” Hodgson said on getting results against the best teams in the league.
“It’s not so difficult to know what you’ve got to try and stop. That’s not rocket science as such. The difficulty is dealing with the quality of the players, the quality of their technique.
“Even if you get your tactical work right, and your positions on the field right more often than not, and people work hard to keep their positions and take up the right positions, unfortunately a (Kevin) De Bruyne in these teams you play against, can undo you.
“That is a big danger. You do need to have such enormous powers of concentration and discipline in order to not relent, if you like, from what you are trying to do.
“You know the other team have such good quality players, the moment they find those gaps that you’ve worked hard to try and plug, when they get in there, they don’t miss.”
Despite some good recent results against top-six sides – including a win at Manchester United earlier in the campaign – Palace were thrashed 7-0 by Liverpool in December.
Hodgson maintains that rout remains a “one-off” as he aims to inflict more misery on Pep Guardiola this time out.
“That was such a one-off game, a one-off occasion, we simply have to put that in the realm of freak results,” he added.
“On that day Liverpool were exceptionally good but more importantly they took almost every goal chance that they created.
“The players know what they are doing. They know their jobs on the field, they know what we expect of them, and as a result, if all goes well, it’s more than possible that we can keep a clean sheet even against the top teams.
“All you can do is keep working on it and keep hoping that the experience the players get from these matches, or the confidence even, will help you as you go through them.”