(Reuters) – Pep Guardiola said the fine margins that have decided the Premier League title race in recent years means it is crucial that Manchester City hit the ground running when their campaign begins on Sunday.
City beat Liverpool to the title by a point last season, and in the 2018-19 campaign, and Guardiola said any slip-up could result in a team being out of the race by November when the league goes on break for the World Cup.
“I have the feeling every time we start the press conference that this season is harder,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday ahead of their season-opener at West Ham United. “I think next season cannot be harder but it is.
“Every club is getting better, the managers are so exciting and that is why the Premier League is the best.
“(This year) there are two seasons, one before the World Cup, you can’t win it before but you can lose it … We won two Premier Leagues by one point, we know we can win 12-14 games in a row. Liverpool as well. You have to start well.”
Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move away from City and though Guardiola said he wants the Portuguese midfielder to remain at the club he will not force any player to stay.
“I would love for Bernardo to continue here, he’s a very special player in the locker room,” he added. “What happens will happen, if he stays it is perfect, if he has to leave it’s because football is like this.”
City are looking to sign a left back following the departure of Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal and while reported target Marc Cucurella looks set to sign for Chelsea Guardiola said he has cover for the position until the end of the transfer window.
“Joao Cancelo is there, Nathan Ake can play there. We will see, we still have time until the end of the month,” Guardiola said.
Aymeric Laporte misses the trip to West Ham after the 28-year-old defender had surgery for a knee injury.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)