MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola and Manchester City continue their assault on the Premier League record books when they face struggling Huddersfield at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow, with the manager telling players and supporters alike to enjoy a once in a lifetime occasion.
City captain Vincent Kompany, fit and back for the game following a minor injury, will lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the fixture, thereby allowing the club to formally celebrate a title that was confirmed three weeks earlier.
With City’s success being all but a certainty since the turn of the calendar year, virtually the only significant interest, for neutrals at least, has surrounded their re-writing of the Premier League’s record books, with more marks potentially falling to Guardiola’s men this weekend.
Victory will take City past the record points tally, the 95 recorded by Chelsea in 2004/05, while two goals will better the mark of 103 scored by Chelsea in 2009/10.
Yet another win would also set a new best for the greatest number of victories in a Premier League season, surpassing Chelsea’s 30 last term.
With three games remaining, City could also win the title by the largest ever margin — currently the 18 points by which Manchester United captured the league in 2000 — and look certain to set a new best-ever goal difference, with their current plus-76 five goals superior to the Chelsea team of eight years ago.
Guardiola is clearly more interested in the victory whatever its meaning but, on a day which will see jubilant celebrations as City receive their third title in seven years, he made no attempt to conceal his intention to enjoy the occasion.
“The records are a coincidence,” he said.
“We are having to think about winning another game. They are huge records, but the target is to play good, win the game. It will be a special day, 10 months fighting every week, a lot of games for this.
“I’ve told the players to enjoy it, the fans too, for a lot of us it will be the first time. Twenty players have never won the Premier League, a lot of staff and we are going to enjoy it.”
Having won the league title with such ease, and with so much of the campaign remaining, Guardiola challenged his players to retain their focus in an attempt to stamp their names in the history books.
Given that the two games since being confirmed as champions have seen City beat Swansea 5-0 and win 4-1 at West Ham, that challenge has clearly been accepted by his stars.
‘Title belongs to us’
“In that period it’s a lot,” he said of the remaining ‘dead rubbers’ that City have been required to play. To play when you are champions you have more courage, because it doesn’t matter. The title belongs to us.”
He added: “Next season we’ll start with zero but it’s a good sign.
I was really impressed with training, everyone wants to play, we are scoring, creating chances. Next season we start again and it will be different but it’s a good sign.”
Kompany has recovered in time to take his place in Guardiola’s defence against Huddersfield and City also have England defender John Stones, out since injuring himself on international duty in late March, available again.
Huddersfield’s late-season collapse, which has seen them win just once since the end of February, has dragged David Wagner’s team back to the brink of the relegation places and, unlike City, the Yorkshire club is playing for far more than records.
“We played them in the FA Cup last season and it was tough, complicated,” said Guardiola.
“They are in a situation where they need points, they have three tough games but Wagner has done amazing and it’s a tough game. They will be focused.”