Pep Guardiola right to be wary of Tottenham as team to end Man City streak
MANCHESTER -- It was Christmas Jumper Day at Manchester City on Friday, but Pep Guardiola was not in the mood to join in with the festive spirit, perhaps just to remind the rest of the Premier League they can expect no charity from the runaway leaders.
Unbeaten at the top of the table, 11 points clear of second-placed Manchester United and having just set a record of consecutive top-flight wins with their 15th on the bounce against Swansea in midweek, City could take Christmas off and still enjoy a comfortable lead when they return to action.
But no, it is business as usual at the Etihad Stadium ahead of Tottenham Hotspur's visit on Saturday, even if Guardiola insisted his Christmas jumper snub was purely down to his measurements.
"They are all very nice," Guardiola said, when asked why he was not wearing one. "They didn't have my size."
Guardiola does not do frivolity, though, and he is also not prepared to encourage the perception that his record-breaking City team will continue to brush aside all of their opponents this season.
Spurs are the only team from last season's top six that City have yet to face this term and Mauricio Pochettino's team have form against Guardiola's men.
A 2-0 Spurs win at White Hart Lane in October 2016 ended City's 100 percent winning start to last season, with City conceding a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home in the return game last January.
Spurs have won three of their last four Premier League games against City, so it is perhaps no surprise that Guardiola is wary of Saturday's opponents.
"Tottenham is an important game because the opponent is so tough," Guardiola said. "Spurs remain a top team, it doesn't matter about their league position. I know what Tottenham can do. They are a very dangerous team.
"The results are the results. I see what they do and I have a lot of respect for Tottenham.
"But no matter what happens on Saturday, nothing is going to change -- we are not going to win the Premier League tomorrow, we are not going to lose it either."
Having defeated United 2-1 at Old Trafford last Sunday, City extended their run of beating all of their closest rivals for the title.
So can Spurs do what United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have failed to do by finding a way to slam the brakes on Guardiola's team?
"So far no one can stop Manchester City," Pochettino said. "They are having a fantastic season and I think they deserve all the praise and credit.
"For us it's a massive challenge. It's a game that you don't need to motivate your players, you don't need to talk too much.
"Only decide the plan, provide the plan to the players and on the day only deliver that plan. But what they are doing is fantastic -- they have broken records and how they are playing is very good."
Ominously for the rest, however, Guardiola believes his City team still has room for improvement.
But while the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach believes they still have levels to climb to, he insists that City cannot go through the season unbeaten in the Premier League.
"The statistics are good, but I have the feeling we can be much, much better," Guardiola said. "But to win 15 times is an exception. In football, it is impossible to win every game and sooner or later, we will not win a game.
"It [going unbeaten in the league] is not going to happen. That belongs to Arsene Wenger and his amazing [Arsenal] team. We are going to lose games because it is such a tough league.
"What they did is an exception. There are so many games, it is not going to happen.
"It's important to play better, that is the most important thing. The record of wins will always stay there until one day it is broken. But I am happy, not with the results, but the way we play."
At some point, though, City will drop points of even lose a game. The same fate befell Guardiola's outstanding teams at Barca and Bayern after long winning runs.
So how will it feel when it happens?
"When I dropped points in those games, people said finally they have finished the run and I said you have to talk about what we've done," Guardiola said. "Nineteen games unbeaten [with Bayern] was an exception, 16 or 15 -- the same.
"That's why we are so happy because, in football, it's not possible to win every single game.
"But at the end, we are going to draw and lose, that's normal. That's what has happened since the 19th century."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_