The final countdown: Pep Guardiola looks forward to three big matches

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Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are now playing knockout football as they continue to chase Arsenal in the Premier League title race.

The champions kept up the pressure on the leaders with a comfortable 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Leicester at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

City now turn their attention to the Champions League and FA Cup in the coming week but their next Premier League outing will be their crunch home clash against the Gunners on April 26.

“It is a ‘final’ to play more finals,” City manager Guardiola said. “If we lose this game, it will be almost over.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola views City’s upcoming clash against Arsenal as a ‘final’ (Martin Rickett/PA)

“We wanted this opportunity, knowing how difficult it will be, but first we have the Champions League and the semi-final of the FA Cup.”

City were soon into their stride against the struggling Foxes, who endured a tough afternoon in new manager Dean Smith’s first match in charge.

John Stones opened the scoring with a stunning strike after just five minutes and the prolific Erling Haaland added a quickfire double to all but put the result beyond doubt inside 25 minutes.

Haaland has now scored 32 Premier League goals, equalling the individual record for a 38-game season in the competition, and the overall best tally of 34 is now well within reach.

He made way at half-time and Kelechi Iheanacho pulled one back and hit the post as Leicester rallied late on, with James Maddison also going close, but City were not to be denied. They will now head into next week’s big fixtures in good heart.

Guardiola’s side first travel to Germany looking to secure a place in the Champions League semi-finals after beating Bayern Munich 3-0 in the first leg of their tie last week. They then head to Wembley to tackle Championship Sheffield United in the FA Cup.

Leicester’s predicament, in the bottom three after nine games without a win, is stark but Smith feels he has enough to work with.

Dean Smith
Dean Smith felt the Foxes showed character (Nick Potts/PA)

“Our season was never going to be defined by coming to the Etihad.

“We showed a lot of character. There are good players in our dressing room and they’ve shown in the last 25 minutes they’re good characters as well.

“We’ve come in and lifted the confidence a bit. I saw a lethargy last week against Bournemouth but I didn’t see that here.”

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