London: Pep Guardiola said all thoughts about Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid have been banished ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Everton.
Treble-chasing City hope to claim a place in the final of Europe’s elite club competition when they host Real on Wednesday after drawing 1-1 in the first leg of their last-four tie this week.
City have never won the Champions League, while Guardiola’s wait to get his hands on the trophy has now reached 12 years since he lifted it for the second time as Barcelona boss.
Despite the significance of the Real tie, the Premier League leaders cannot afford to take it easy when they travel to relegation-threatened Everton in a clash that is crucial at both ends of the table.
Any slip-up at Goodison Park would open the door again to second-placed Arsenal, who are just one point behind City, although they have played a game extra.
“My thought is just Everton — no more than that,” Guardiola said on Friday.
“It’s 11 months working for the Premier League. We don’t have much time to Madrid because we play Sunday — thank you so much — but it’s a real, real priority, Goodison Park.”
Extra day's rest
Real have an extra day’s rest before the second leg as they are in La Liga action on Saturday.
Guardiola, whose team are targeting a fifth Premier League title in six years, would have preferred to play on Saturday too but says he is beyond complaining about the schedule.
“I can’t understand it but I’m not going to fight it anymore,” said the City boss. “I don’t understand it but we have to adapt. The schedule, it is what it is.”
Mikel Arteta says “everything is still to play for” as he prepares his title-chasing Arsenal get ready to host Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Gunners, seeking to win the title for the first time since 2004, are one point behind leaders Manchester City with just three games to play.
Treble-chasing City, closing in on their fifth league crown in six years, also have a game in hand.
When asked at Arsenal’s pre-match press conference on Friday whether the players still believe they can win the title, Arteta said: “That’s what we’re here for.
“It starts on Sunday again, there’s three games to go, this is the crucial one and right now we want to beat them and elevate our hopes and enthusiasm to keep going because everything is still to play for.”
Arsenal have won their past two matches after a damaging string of results that allowed defending champions City to leapfrog them.
Important stage of season
Arteta said his men had recovered their confidence “by playing well, by being on top of the game and individually raising the level — that has been something critical and really important when you get to this stage of the season”.
He added: “Once you’ve done that, that has a huge impact on the team’s performance. The team has been playing well, scoring goals and winning matches, so it’s a good mixture.”
Arteta, whose team wrap up their season with games against Nottingham Forest and Wolves, said he had told the players to put talk about their future on the back-burner.
Arsenal’s England pair Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka are believed to be close to signing new deals, while Reiss Nelson is out of contract and Granit Xhaka has this week been linked with a move back to Germany.
“We have communicated to each of them what the intentions are and we are trying to get that done as quickly as possible but respecting and not losing any focus on what is the real deal right now,” Arteta said.
Playing for pride
Frank Lampard says his struggling Chelsea stars will “play for pride” as they look to salvage a top-10 finish in the Premier League at the end of a dismal season.
Lampard’s side are languishing in 11th place and could complete the campaign in the bottom half of the table for the first time since 1996.
That would be a suitably dispiriting conclusion to a turbulent season in which Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter were sacked before Lampard returned for a second spell in charge.
Interim boss Lampard, who is expected to be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino in the close season, lost his first six games before finally getting a victory at Bournemouth last weekend.
Chelsea can influence the relegation battle when they host lowly Nottingham Forest on Saturday in a fixture that will be of interest to Lampard’s former club Everton.
Lampard was sacked by Everton in January and the Toffees are still in trouble, sitting two points above the relegation zone and one place below Forest.
“We play for pride in every game no matter what the consequence for everybody else,” Lampard said on Friday.
“It’s our consequence that we’re concerned about. Everton’s fate is in their own hands at this point, it’s not in my concern.”
Chelsea’s win at Bournemouth was a much-needed respite for the club, who had not tasted victory since March 11, when Potter was still in charge, but Lampard said it was important to keep a level head.
“You can’t get carried away over a win,” he said. “I could look at defeat and see positives, I could look at a win and see a lot we need to improve.
Fighting for their lives
“It’s nice for that general feeling of confidence in the building, but in terms of where we want to be it’s a small step. Celebrating all week is not going to be the answer.
“Another game comes in the Premier League with a team fighting for their lives. We have to match that intensity and desire because those are the rules in the Premier League.”