BRISTOL (AFP): Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to catch leaders Arsenal in the Premier League title race.
Guardiola’s second-placed side will trail Arsenal by five points if the Gunners beat Everton in their game in hand on Wednesday.
City had seized top spot when they won 3-1 at Arsenal recently, but a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest allowed Mikel Arteta’s team to regain top spot.
The champions routed Bournemouth 4-1 on Saturday to stay in the hunt, just hours after Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Leicester.
But with City having to come from behind in their bid to win a fifth title in six seasons, Guardiola knows they have no margin for error.
“I have the feeling in the Premier League many things are going to happen. Everyone is going to drop points but we cannot drop any if we are going to fight until the end,” Guardiola told reporters on Monday.
Guardiola’s men travel to second tier Bristol City in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday before returning to their title defence with a potentially tricky test against Newcastle on Saturday.
City have been unusually inconsistent for much of this season, giving Arsenal the opportunity to take pole position.
Yet Guardiola insists City are still competing to the standard he demands, regardless of their occasional slip-ups.
“The game we are playing is good. The results could be better – in terms of winning at Spurs or Nottingham – but sometimes that happens,” he said.
“Of course it’s not exceptional, it’s OK, it’s good, but I don’t have complaints with the way we are playing and fighting.
“I said after the last game against Bournemouth that the mood in the locker room is exceptional and the guys are doing everything, and that’s enough for me.”
Bristol City have not lost since Boxing Day and Guardiola has no intention of taking victory for granted against Nigel Pearson’s side as he seeks to avoid an FA Cup upset.
“Last 12 games no defeat, that gives me a lot of info. It means they are there,” he said.
“My scouts say they are good team, the manager has a lot of experience. He did really well at Leicester and Watford.
“The FA Cup is an important competition, really important. It’s a serious team that is going to play tomorrow.”
There could be a rare chance for City midfielder Kalvin Phillips to start on Tuesday after a frustrating campaign for the England international.
Phillips has started just one game following his move from Leeds last year, struggling with injuries before being criticised by Guardiola for being overweight.
“Kalvin is adapting and adjusting a little bit. Some players need a bit more time,” Guardiola said.
“I have the feeling he needs a little bit more time to learn more about our rhythm, but it was so important for him to play the minutes he played at Bournemouth for the rhythm.”