Is Pep losing his step?
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
It's at this stage of the season, when games seem to matter more and trophies are on the line, where Manchester City was relying on Pep Guardiola coming into his own.
After all, this was the acclaimed serial winner who was going to "transform our team to a whole new level", according to chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak as he welcomed the Spanish coach to City amid much fanfare last June.
Guardiola has come up short.
Over the last six weeks, five of City's seven games have been high-profile showdowns across three competitions Monaco in the Champions League, Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, and Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the English Premier League and City has failed to win a single one. Overall, in 11 league games against the current top seven this season, City has won just two of them.
There is another blockbuster looming, a derby against archrival Manchester United on Thursday, and City dare not lose.
Guardiola is feeling the heat as he faces up to a first season without winning a major trophy in a nine-year coaching career that started spectacularly at Barcelona and continued at Bayern Munich.
City were eliminated by Monaco in the last 16 of the Champions League, knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal on Sunday, and is only in fourth place in the Premier League the final Champions League qualification spot with five games left.
Lose to United at Etihad Stadium and there's a real chance City will not even qualify for the Champions League next season, which would be a calamity for a club of its ambition and financial power, not to mention a huge embarrassment for Guardiola.