Pep Guardiola wants to “smell” the desire of his Manchester City players as they bid to chase Liverpool down in the title race.
And the City boss will not tolerate tiredness as an excuse as the Premier League champions target an unprecedented quadruple.
City claimed their first major silverware of the season with victory in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday and attention now turns to their title defence as they host West Ham at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
They could go into the game weary after playing 120 minutes plus penalties against Chelsea at Wembley but Guardiola insists that should not be an issue.
He said: “When you are on top you can drop points but when behind you cannot, because after it’ll be more difficult.
“I don’t want to see excuses about tiredness, fixtures, schedules, or how many games. That is nothing.
“When you have the illusion to fight until the end, to retain the title, the power and the energy to give you that, it is higher than any excuses you can find.
“In the last two months the mentality makes the difference. I want to see tomorrow the desire that we really, really want to win this title. I want to see it. I don’t care about the way we want to play or the other things.
“I want the ‘smell’ in the locker room. I want to ‘smell’ in the beginning of the game, during the game, with our fans, that when one competition is over, really we want to win this title.
“I want to see their faces tomorrow, my players. After the game I’ll tell you if I saw something special or not.”
Liverpool retain the initiative in the title race but they lead by just one point at the top of the table after being held to a draw at Manchester United on Sunday.
It was one of three drawn games for Jurgen Klopp’s side in their last four outings, handing momentum towards City.
Guardiola said: “Still they are leading this tournament. So far, they were better than us, Tottenham and the other ones.
“There was one period in nine games we lost four – a month ago. Only one team was stable during the season.
“There are still 11 games to play, they are leading by one point. It is shorter than I expected a few weeks ago but still they are leading. We have to focus on what we have to do.
“It’s in their hands but our hands too. The only thing we can do is put on pressure, so they feel we are there and we are going to win and win and win.”
Wednesday’s game sees City come up against their former manager Manuel Pellegrini, Guardiola’s predecessor who oversaw the 2014 Premier League success.
Asked about the reaction the Chilean should receive, Guardiola said: “The reaction he deserves. I’m pretty sure it will be high, he did an incredible job.”
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