Manchester City moved within two points of League leaders Liverpool after beating Sheffield United 2-0 on Saturday evening, thanks to goals from Rodri and Julian Alvarez.
City were utterly dominant at home to Sheffield United, enjoying 82 percent possession. Rodri got the early breakthrough when he latched on to Phil Foden’s neat pass and fired into the bottom corner, but a slender advantage at half-time didn’t reflect the one-sided nature of the contest.
The Blades’ were resolute defensively and managed to stem the tide until Foden again played provider midway through the second half, with his low cross converted by Julian Alvarez.
It means back-to-back league wins for City since they returned from their FIFA World Club Cup triumph in Saudi Arabia, moving them to within two points of leaders Liverpool.
Aston Villa are sandwiched between the pair after beating Burnley, level on points with the Reds but having played a game more than both the more-fancied title contenders.
Only goal difference separates City and fourth-placed Arsenal, with excitement growing over the perception of a wide-open title battle.
But in his post-match interview, the Spanish boss refrained from mentioning the Gunners when pressed on his team’s hopes of a fourth straight league title. Instead, his focus appeared on Jurgen Klopp and co.
“So tight – we’re not top of the league, Liverpool are better,” he told the BBC.
“We’ve had injuries and some problems, we won the titles, important ones, our level is really good I would say and we are there. Now rest, we all need it. January is less intense than November and December so we prepare for what’s next.”
While many may share the view that Villa are not equipped to go the distance, no mention of Arsenal will have been noted by fans in north London.
Last season, it took a late capitulation from Mikel Arteta’s side to aid City’s third successive title, and they would be ahead of the champions now were it not for Thursday’s home defeat to West Ham.
City’s own ambitions for four in a row had been hit by defensive frailties pre-Christmas. Indeed, their latest win signified a first Premier League clean sheet since October 29, having played eight times in the top-flight since.
And Guardiola, who will now see if Arsenal and Liverpool can respond in the next 48 hours with games against Fulham and Newcastle respectively, acknowledged the feat:
“So important. The Chelsea game, conceding four, and lots of goals in games but here, few chances. It’s important to consider that.”