Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hailed his team’s fans after they won their fourth EFL Cup on the bounce, but admitted they had one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal and the Premier League, which he has labelled “the most important title of the season.”
Guardiola’s City were dominant against Tottenham Hotspur in the 1-0 win. Though they had to wait until the 82nd minute for Aymeric Laporte’s winning header, City bossed the match from start to finish, having 21 shots compared to Spurs’ two.
The triumph marks the first piece of the jigsaw in what could be a remarkable triple for them this term. They are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League with two matches remaining — helped by Leeds United’s 0-0 draw with second-place Manchester United on Sunday — and also have Paris Saint-Germain lying in wait on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
“We cannot deny it, you have one eye on the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “[But] Every game we take seriously, or it is impossible to win four Carabao Cups in a row.
“Now we rest and prepare the semifinal against PSG, after that we are two wins away from trying to win again the most important title of the season. The Premier League is nicest one, it’s the one I am so proud of. We are close. We need two victories. Between this crazy schedule, between the games against PSG, we’ll try to win the first one against Crystal Palace.”
City won the EFL Cup in front of 7,776 spectators at Wembley, with 2,000 supporters permitted from both clubs along with 4,000 local residents. The match acted as one of the government’s trial matches as it tests out allowing fans back into the ground, after a season played largely behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Guardiola said the City contingent at Wembley “represented all the fans this season” and said the reason they win silverware “is for them.”
Attention now shifts to Wednesday’s tie against PSG, but Guardiola was full of praise for Raheem Sterling, who kept Spurs’ defence on their heels throughout. He was unable to snap a run of just one goal in 11 matches for City, but Guardiola was delighted with the England winger’s performance.
“Amazing, Amazing, amazing,” Guardiola said, when asked about Sterling’s performance. “Especially he showed in the opening that we came here to win the game through his first actions.
“He made an incredible performance. All the players were brilliant. This is why football’s special — hats off for what they’ve done all season.
“We’ve won the first title, we’re close to the second one and we’re heading to Paris to try to win the third.”