Pep Guardiola: Club World Cup win has given Man City renewed focus

Premier League champions got their campaign back on track with a 3-1 win at Everton

Julian Alvarez gave Manchester City a 2-1 lead at Everton through a controversial penalty. PA
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes the triumphant trip to Saudi Arabia for the Fifa Club World Cup has given his side renewed focus after the Premier League champions got their title defence back on track with a 3-1 comeback victory over Everton on Wednesday.

In their first match since winning the Club World Cup, City climbed back into the league's top four thanks to second-half goals by Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva.

City moved above Tottenham Hotspur into fourth place with 37 points from 18 games, five behind leaders Liverpool, having played a game less.

City's quest for an unprecedented fourth successive league title hit turbulence before Christmas with a defeat by third-placed Aston Villa and draws against Tottenham and Crystal Palace, but Guardiola was pleased with the mentality his players showed at Goodison Park.

"I remember on the plane coming back from Saudi Arabia, I listened to the players when they didn't know I was listening, and they started to talk about Everton," Guardiola said. "I said 'wow, this is my team'. I have the feeling they still want to try.

"We play many games this season and people say we are not the same. We have lost one of the last 13 (excluding the Club World Cup). We don't talk enough about how good we are."

The win against Everton came at a cost with defender John Stones being forced off due to an injury against his former club.

"It doesn't look good, but we will see. It's his ankle," Guardiola told Amazon Prime.

The European champions, who also won the Uefa Super Cup this year, have missed the influence of injured Belgian playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, while a foot problem has denied them the services of Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland recently.

"[Haaland] feels better, but he hasn't made one training session with us," Guardiola said. "Hopefully, in January, he can come back with us.

"Kevin is close... we have to be careful. If you don't handle the timings good, you can get injured again."

Against Everton, it initially looked as though City's stuttering league form would continue when Jack Harrison fired the in-form hosts into the lead in the 29th minute.

But Foden drilled in a superb low shot after 53 minutes and Alvarez converted a penalty after a controversial handball awarded against Everton's Amadou Onana, which left Toffees manager Sean Dyche befuddled.

The ball struck Onana's arm from point-blank range and referee John Brooks pointed to the spot after being instructed by his assistant on the touchline.

VAR opted not to reverse the decision and Alvarez tucked away the penalty to make it 2-1 before Bernardo Silva wrapped up the points for City late on.

Handball decisions have become magnified since the introduction of VAR with the interpretation of whether or not the arm is in a "natural" position often very subjective.

"We can debate the penalty all day. It has been by managers on Zoom calls to say it's a farce but that's the way it goes," Dyche told Amazon Prime.

"That's completely natural. He's not putting his arm up to save it, he's literally jumping in to try to block the ball. How that is given as a penalty is bizarre in my world but I must be from a different planet.

"Tonight the linesman gives that and he's 18 yards away so I don't know who is giving what anymore. Who knows? All the managers are debating it. Someone needs to stand up at some point and realise that can't be a penalty because he's just throwing himself in front of it to try to block the ball."

Updated: December 28, 2023, 7:48 AM