Pep Guardiola took aim at Manchester City’s Premier League rivals, accusing them of being behind the charges the champions face over their finances, and insisted: “More than ever I want to stay.”
The City manager claimed nine Premier League teams – who he named – had tried to have City thrown out of the Champions League previously, when the club faced UEFA charges over financial fair play.
He said all 19 of City’s rivals this season wanted to see the champions punished, but Guardiola is convinced City have operated by the book and will be cleared.
City have been accused of over 100 breaches of the Premier League’s financial rules between the seasons of 2009-10 and 2017-18. Guardiola said the action had come about because City “are not part of the establishment”.
“My first thought is we have already been condemned,” he said ahead of City’s meeting with Aston Villa. “What’s happened this week after Monday is what happened with UEFA.”
In 2020, City had a two-year ban from European football overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The club were fined €10million for a failure to cooperate, down from an initial €30m, but were allowed to play in UEFA’s international club tournaments.
“The club proved we are completely innocent,” Guardiola said. “You have to understand that between 19 teams of the Premier League accusing us without the least opportunity to defend, and the words of my club, my owner, my chairman, my CEO, explaining everything during these three or four years, you know exactly on what side I am.”
Villa boss Unai Emery suggested the news could make the trip to the Etihad Stadium even trickier for his side.
“I think they are going to be together and try to respond on the pitch,” he said. “It is going to be very difficult. It’s a big challenge for us.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manchester City – Erling Haaland
As well as being the top scorer in the Premier League this season with 25 goals, Haaland’s strikes have earned City a league-high 18 points. However, last time out against Tottenham, the Norwegian failed to register a single shot or touch in the opposition penalty area in 90 minutes.
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
Watkins is looking to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time. He last scored in three straight league appearances in August 2018 with Brentford in the Championship.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Emery has never beaten Guardiola in 12 previous meetings in all competitions, drawing four and losing eight. His first ever Premier League game in charge came against Guardiola’s City, and a 2-0 defeat with Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in August 2018.
– This will be Guardiola’s 250th Premier League game as manager. He’s the 29th manager to reach this milestone in the competition, while only five managers have more wins than the Spaniard (183). Indeed, Guardiola has the highest win rate of any permanent manager in Premier League history (73.5 per cent).
– City have lost four Premier League games this season, already more than they did in the whole of 2021-22 (3). They lost 1-0 at Tottenham last time out, but haven’t lost consecutive league games since December 2018.
– Following their 1-1 draw at Villa Park in September, Villa are looking to avoid defeat in both Premier League meetings with Man City in a season for the first time since 2000-01, when they drew 2-2 at home and won 3-1 at Maine Road.
– Villa have won all three of their Premier League away games under Emery, with John Gregory the only manager in Villa’s league history to win his first four on the road (first five between March-May 1998). Villa last won four consecutive top-flight away games between November 2008 and February 2009 (seven).