Stay solid and City stay in the hunt: Pep

Stay solid and City stay in the hunt: Pep

LONDON • Pep Guardiola called on Manchester City’s defenders to keep up their mean streak as his side closed in on the Premier League top four with a 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday.

Raheem Sterling’s first goal in seven games and a Kevin de Bruyne penalty inside the first 26 minutes ensured a comfortable afternoon, as City recorded back-to-back wins in the league for the first time this season.

After a difficult start to the campaign caused by injuries, Covid-19 cases and a short pre-season, City trail Chelsea, who went top on Saturday provisionally with 22 points, by just four points and with a game in hand.

On the lack of a clear favourite, City manager Guardiola said: “This season looks like there will be a lot of teams in contention.

“We struggled at the beginning of the season for many reasons.

“Now four games, four clean sheets. It’s so important for us to maintain this solidity.”

Sterling had not scored in the league for nearly two months and had been left out by Guardiola in recent weeks.

But he looked more like his old self, getting in behind Fulham’s defence to provide some much-needed penetration for a City side who have struggled to score goals this season, with 10 strikes in their first eight league games.

Fellow England international John Stones, who in the summer was tipped to leave the Etihad after losing his place last term, has also regained Guardiola’s favour, starting his second league game in a row ahead of Aymeric Laporte in defence.

“We need to keep this streak going, keep these clean sheets going too,” said the centre-back.

“I think every game we play in, we could always score more. I’m sure the strikers will be frustrated but it’s just good to get the three points.”