Pep Guardiola was delighted with Manchester City’s performance against Brighton on Wednesday, but not for the reason you might expect.
The newly-crowned Premier League champions could not extend their run of 12 straight league wins down on the south coast, settling for a 1-1 draw in what was essentially a dead rubber.
Phil Foden put City ahead after Erling Haaland unselfishly set him up, before Julio Enciso scored a long-range stunner to cap an entertaining first half.
The second half was a more tame affair but Guardiola was happy that his players managed to show up at all.
That’s because just a few days earlier, City’s players were partying hard following their Premier League title win.
Arsenal’s defeat to Nottingham Forest on Saturday secured City a third consecutive title and they were presented with the trophy following their 1-0 win against Chelsea on Sunday.
That evening the squad hit the town. According to Guardiola, following up a heavy session with a decent performance was quite the achievement.
“The game we played, 48 hours after we drank all the alcohol in Manchester, 48 hours later we behaved and we showed why we were the champions against that team,” he said after the Brighton game.
If Pep’s players were enjoying the Manchester nightlife on Sunday, he certainly wasn’t.
“At 10:30pm I was in bed with my wife,” the City boss told the club’s website.
“I was exhausted. I watched Match of the Day and I slept like a baby. But I know the players did what they have to do. When you win the Premier League, you have to celebrate it.
“They did it with their families, they enjoyed a lot… And the next morning was just sauna time, and the day after we talked a little bit in the afternoon, ‘Guys you have to be ready and energy tomorrow night in Brighton’, and they did it!”
The result means City are on track to finish the season with 92 points but, more than that, Guardiola was happy with the performance.
“It’s so important [to continue momentum]. We couldn’t drop much, but it’s normal to drop off,” he said.
“Today, I didn’t see it. Against Chelsea, I didn’t see it. It’s normal that we can drop points and a little bit of intensity after being [confirmed as] champions.
A number of City players – including Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Manuel Akanji and Jack Grealish – didn’t make the trip to Brighton due to ‘niggles’.
Phil Foden and John Stones were both withdrawn in the second half, according to Guardiola, as a precaution.
“They feel uncomfortable. Phil, that’s why we did the substitution five minutes into the second half. John at the end, he felt tight and of course, we have to be careful. The players want to play on the final day as much as possible.”