Pep Guardiola has revealed that Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Chelsea left him more convinced that Manchester City are going to enjoy an excellent season.
City are now in fourth place, four points behind leaders Chelsea after having two men dismissed in a dramatic match that could have considerable repercussions.
But while Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero now have suspensions to serve, Guardiola pronounced himself encouraged by much of what he saw.
“Now I’m happy,” he insisted. “One hour when I am home after the Chelsea game, I think to myself: ‘This season is going to be good’.
More on Chelsea and Man City
• Thomas Woods: Luck is on Chelsea's side, but has deserted champions Leicester City
• Richard Jolly: Conte bests Guardiola, and Chelsea keep their heads as Man City lose theirs
“We played quite well, much better than the last two away games we won. After Crystal Palace and Burnley, I was worried. But now I am so, so satisfied. It is a long road. This doesn’t finish our season.”
While he was expansive on the issue of his side’s play, Guardiola was gnomic in his response to questions about City’s deteriorating disciplinary record.
Including the offence for which Aguero received a retrospective ban for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid, City have had six sendings-off this season but their manager said: “We are the best team with ball possession and the most red cards.”
Aguero will begin a four-game domestic ban on Saturday and Guardiola is considering whether to select the striker, who will not be available again until New Year’s Eve, against Celtic on Tuesday night, when City will finish second in the group, regardless of the result.
• Jonathan Raymond: Chelsea, Kevin De Bruyne and football's peculiar paradoxes
• In pictures: Willian, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Chelsea turn tables on Man City
Guardiola has made the most alterations to his starting line-up in the Premier League, 46, and has vowed to carry on with that policy. "Always I rotated and always I will do," he said.
He has vowed to make changes for the Champions League game, with Willy Caballero set to replace Claudio Bravo in goal while midfielder Fernandinho, who was also sent off against Borussia Monchengladbach, is suspended.
Guardiola's belief that results can be deceptive led him to defend an old rival as he refused to rule Manchester United out of the Premier League title race but said Jose Mourinho's team have a mountain to climb to catch Chelsea.
United are 13 points behind Chelsea and nine adrift of City but Guardiola believes a top-four finish is easily within their grasp.
While he had a fractious relationship with Mourinho in their time in Spain, the Catalan feels United are unlucky to have only won one of their last eight matches and feels the Portuguese will take them up the table.
“I saw the [drawn] games against Stoke and Burnley and they deserve by far to win,” he said. “Of course United has the quality, by the history, by the manager, by the players to be there. Thirteen points is a long distance so it is not easy, but to be in the first four? Of course.”
Guardiola also refuted Chilean reports that he contacted Alexis Sanchez, who he signed for Barcelona, about a move to City.
“Alexis Sanchez would fit in any team in the world,” he added. “But it is absolutely false. The journalist is a liar.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport