'They are heroes' – Guardiola backs 'incredible' Man City stars despite poor form

The Premier League champions have lost three of the last four games but the Catalan boss has refused to publicly criticise his players

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said he has been pleased with his players’ response to their second defeat in as many games.

City lost 2-1 to Leicester in the previous outing on Boxing Day, just four days after they were on the wrong side of 3-2 scoreline against Crystal Palace.

The results saw Guardiola’s men drop to third in the table and they now trail leaders Liverpool by seven points.

However, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munch coach was still full of praise for his players.

The response is always good,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Southampton. “Yesterday was a day off and now they are training as good as always.

“We have the belief – whether it’s after a win or loss. Of course, now we have to come back and win if we want to fight for trophies.

“They are heroes for me – nothing is going to change. There are just more and more games.

“I have to explain to them and see what we’ve done well and move forward. It’s very easy (to keep the players focused).

“To win, you have to play good. I will continue with that. The game will speak for itself.

“We need help to win even more but it’s what you have to do to win.”

Guardiola is used to being the pacesetter in the table and has admitted he is not enjoying his rare position of having to case down the run away leaders.

“A big challenge for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I like the situation but I know it’s common in football and I like to handle it.

“I will help them and to help each other and we will come back who we are. It’s done and we will move forward. I try to make a map about the situation but it’s a challenge for me and I need it. I live more in the future.”

Incredibly, City began December unbeaten in the league and had won 12 of their 14 games, yet three defeats in the last four have dampened talks that the current crop at the Etihad could be the best in Premier League history.

“You said we were invincible and we never thought about. I accept the situation is a normal part of the process and if you believe I will doubt my players you are completely wrong, they are incredible. I never point the finger at one person, never.”

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