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Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City have no reason to feel nervous heading into their final Premier League game of the season against Aston Villa.
City know that victory at home to Villa on Sunday will see them hold off Liverpool, who host Wolves, for their fourth league title in five seasons. However, the reigning champions have drawn three of their past nine league matches and any sort of slip-up at the Etihad Stadium will open the door for Liverpool to pounce.
But with City's destiny very much in their own hands, Guardiola has told his players to enjoy the occasion.
"I've said to our players, it's just a football game," he said. "Don't think about how happy or sad we'd be, just focus on what we have to do to beat Aston Villa. Having one more title, or one less one, that's important but it's just a football game. I have a feeling we will do things incredibly well.
"We have not been here many times in our history but do we have to be anxious or nervous? No way. Just try to enjoy and suffer the moment."
Villa are managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who will no doubt be desperate to give his former side a huge helping hand by pulling off an upset against City. And the aim for Gerrard, whose side are winless in three and down in 14th place, is to at the very least make life difficult for their opponents.
"They are top of the league for a reason. They have world-class players and a top manager," Gerrard said. "But there is a lot of pressure on them at the weekend and we will try to make it as difficult as we can.
"We will go there as best prepared as we can and try to make it as difficult as we can. Why? Because we want to be in a better place than 14th and we need some more points."
Manchester City - Phil Foden
Kevin De Bruyne (15), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11) are all into double figures for Premier League goals this season among City players.
Foden is closest to joining them, the England international having scored his ninth goal of the campaign in his side's most recent home game, a 5-0 win over Newcastle United.
Aston Villa - Emi Buendia
Philippe Coutinho may have signed a permanent deal with Villa last week, but it is arguably Buendia who is in possession of the attacking midfield spot in Gerrard's side. Buendia made amends for giving away a penalty in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Burnley by netting the equaliser, taking his tally to two goals and two assists in his past five games.
- City have won nine of their past 10 Premier League games against Villa, including the last six in a row. Their last defeat to the Villans came at Villa Park in September 2013.
- Villa have lost 15 of their past 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is the Villans' longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.
- The Villans have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against the league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000. The Villans are winless in their last 16 such games (D2 L14), losing the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.
- City have only lost their final league game in one of the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2), going down 3-2 at home to Norwich in 2012-13.
- Victory for City will secure them their eighth top-flight title, the outright fifth-most in history since its inception in 1888. It would be their sixth Premier League title (outright second-most after Manchester United's 13), and their fourth in the last five seasons.
Updated May 20, 2022