Pep Guardiola anticipates a big welcome for his besieged club at the Etihad as he says the Premier League will never be able to take away the trophies Manchester City have won.
City face Aston Villa today in their first game since being charged with breaching financial rules between 2009 and 2018.
They could face a number of punishments if found guilty, including being stripped of their six Premier League titles, four of which have been won under Guardiola. Such a measure would be meaningless according to Guardiola, who says his club’s achievements cannot be removed by rule-makers.
‘Those moments belong to us regardless of the sentence,’ said the City boss in fighting mood. ‘The goal from [Sergio] Aguero , the slip from Steven Gerrard at Anfield . Was that our fault?
‘The Premier League will decide but I know the effort we put in, what we won and the way we won it. If something happened in 2009 or 2010, it is not going to change one second. We lived these moments together for years.’
City fans are expected to rally behind the team on Sunday as they try to halve the six-point gap to leaders Arsenal.
And Guardiola issued what was effectively a rallying cry to the supporters, painting a picture of the other Premier League clubs ganging up on City.
‘We have to be closer and more together than ever with our fans,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t matter if we are alone as a club if we are always together when the toughest moments come.
‘I always had the feeling when I arrived in England that playing good was not enough to win. We had to play much better. To beat the established clubs you have to do it perfectly, otherwise we have no chance.
‘In equal situations, we do not have history. We are not part of the hierarchy of the Premier League. I said the same in Barcelona, to beat [Real] Madrid, you have to do it much, much better.
‘It happened in the past and it is happening right now. I’m proud of my owner, my chairman, the relationship we have. If they want me here, I am here. I want to convince my players that what we have done, they want to remove. We have to defend our position.’
Guardiola believes City’s reputation has been impacted regardless of the outcome of the case brought by the Premier League.
He sees it as a witch-hunt and says City’s players and staff have to ignore the outside accusations.
‘It is already damaged [us as a club],’ he said. ‘It [the result of the charges] is not going to change anything. The UEFA case didn’t change anything [City won their Financial Fair Play case on appeal]. It didn’t change the reputation but we know what we have done.
‘Forget what other people think about us. We have won a lot. I want to defend our position. I want to defend my title. If the players want to come, delighted. If they don’t want to come, Ok, we play with what we have.’
Aston Villa’s last visit to the Etihad in May saw City clinch the title after fighting back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
Should City win on Sunday, they can move top with victory over leaders Arsenal when the two sides meet on Wednesday.