'Welcome to Abu Dhabi': Manchester City squad arrives in UAE
Premier League leaders in the capital on a five-day warm-weather training camp
The Manchester City squad arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday with the aim of recharging their batteries before resuming their assault on the Premier League title, which could be secured when they face bitter rivals Manchester United in the derby early next month.
Jose Mourinho’s side visit the Etihad Stadium on April 7 for a game which could see City make mathematically certain of being crowned champions following their 2-0 victory at Stoke City on Monday evening, a result that took them 16 points clear at the top of the table.
The City management and squad departed for Abu Dhabi straight after the match. Guardiola said his players would take in some light training during their five-day stay in the capital, but for the most part rest and recuperation was on the menu. A few days spent in the sunnier climes of the UAE as opposed to the inclement British weather was also a factor, he said.
“We are going to be together and make three training sessions in five days,” the City manager told reporters following the win over Stoke.
“We are going to have lunch together, dinner, some people are playing golf. But the weather conditions are better than here - the forecast in Manchester is rain, rain, rain!”
A tweet from the club's official Twitter account on Tuesday showed players getting off an Etihad Airways plane with the message: "Welcome to Abu Dhabi!"
It is the second time Guardiola has visited Abu Dhabi with his City players after enjoying a similar break in February 2017.
Back then, City were fourth in the table as they trailed leaders Chelsea by 11 points before eventually finishing third,15 points behind Antonio Conte’s champions.
Fast forward 13 months though and it is Guardiola’s City side who will topple Chelsea as England’s champions. It is a case of when, not if.
First, City must win their visit to mid-table Everton on March 31 but, should they do so, Guardiola will win his first league title in English football with victory over his old rival Mourinho at the Etihad.
“Everybody is always asking this question,” Guardiola said. “But the important thing is on March 12, we have 81 points, that is a lot of points.
“We want to be champions. We need three wins, but we are able to do it with two [if City beat United].
“But before and after United, we have the [Champions League] quarter-finals, and at the moment that is the most important thing to focus on.
“I understand for the fans, OK, but the important thing is to be champions. When and where it doesn’t matter.”
The in-form English team are also in with a strong chance of winning Europe’s premier prize for the first time in their history.
The draw for the Uefa Champions League last eight takes place on Friday and Guardiola will watch it live, along with his first-team squad, at their warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, where City flew immediately following the Stoke win.
City’s shock exit from the FA Cup, at the hands of third-tier Wigan Athletic, leaves them without a game until the clash with Everton on the final day of the month.
City’s victory at Stoke came courtesy of two goals from David Silva, whose season has been disrupted because of a family crisis, following the premature birth of his son Mateo in December.
The City playmaker, who has been given permission to miss the Abu Dhabi trip to spend time in Spain, admitted after his superb performance against Stoke that football has been a welcome relief.
“I think when I play football I forget everything, it’s good for me to play,” he said.
“I know in my private life it is not a very happy moment. But my son is fighting, you know, and I am very happy because he is getting stronger, getting better, so it is OK.”
* With Agence France-Presse
Updated: March 15, 2018 03:17 PM