Manchester City faces a fight to qualify for UEFA Champions League football next season, according to manager Pep Guardiola.
City is fourth in the English Premier League, seven points behind leader Chelsea, having lost three of its past seven league games to Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea, and plays West Ham United in the FA Cup third round at London Stadium on Friday evening.
On Thursday, Guardiola, 45, clarified comments made earlier this week in an interview with broadcaster NBC in which he appeared to suggest the City job would be his last before retirement, vowing that he was “not thinking” about the end of his career.
He spoke with more lacerating honesty before City’s trip to West Ham, admitting City faced a challenge to make the Champions League given the consistency of the Premier League’s top six. Manchester United, City’s bitter rival, has gone unbeaten in 11 league games and sits three points behind fourth-placed City. Only four teams will make the Champions League for next season.
“I would rather be worried than calm and relaxed, especially with these contenders,” Guardiola said. “All of the top six are achieving good results but two are not going to qualify for the Champions League next season. We are going to take one game at a time until we arrive in the last six or seven games then see what our position is, see if we are contenders to win the league or not because I think this season is going to be a tough one.
“Manchester United would have been much higher up the table last season with the points they have now because last season all the leading teams made mistakes. This time they are all playing well and the English league is showing why it is different to Germany or Spain. In those countries, you have maybe two or three big teams each season. Here, there are six and they are all good.”
City plays Everton when the Premier League resumes on January 15.