‘Incredible to be here’: Guardiola targets Premier League title after Luton victory

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester City</a>'s Mateo Kovacic scores their side's second goal in the win over Luton.</span><span>Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA</span>

Pep Guardiola said “the team is alive” and ready for Real Madrid’s visit for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter‑final second leg after watching Manchester City beat Luton 5-1.

The tie is poised at 3-3 after the game at Real last Tuesday. Victory against Luton took the champions top of the Premier League by two points from Arsenal and Liverpool, who both play on Sunday.

Related: Manchester City’s Jérémy Doku and Josko Gvardiol complete Luton rout

City have scored 16 goals in their past four games and their attempt to claim an unprecedented fourth consecutive title and a second treble in a row remains on course, with Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea following the Champions League second leg.

“The team is alive,” Guardiola said. “It’s difficult against Real Madrid but at the same time, let’s try and go do it with our people [at the Etihad Stadium]. Whatever happens, we will give everything, not one minute we don’t. So what we have to do is be humble and solid – with all of our desire … We want to get to the semi-final and get what we want to feel from our crowd.

“We spoke with the players, how incredible it is to be here again – still fighting for the Premier League. Now 18 points left to play for. Play against Real, the chance to qualify for the semi-final, the FA Cup next Saturday to reach the final. So we try to extend [all this] one more week. In the Premier League they know if we drop points we have no chance. Luton is difficult but we scored five goals.”

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Guardiola was asked if being top for the first time outright and overnight since November might affect Liverpool and Arsenal psychologically. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Arsenal and Liverpool want to be there. We sleep top of the league. We know what we have to do.”

Of those who may start against Real, Guardiola named as substitutes Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Nathan Aké, with John Stones absent from the bench. “Stones has some niggles – he is fine, not injured, but we didn’t want to take some risk,” said the manager. “Nathan and Kyle [who had been injured] wanted to be on the bench so were on the bench.”

After the Real draw Rodri stated he needed a rest. Guardiola was asked about this. “Rodri absolutely, going to be on the bench on Wednesday as well – do you believe me?” he said.

Luton were defeated by a Daiki Hashioka own goal after 66 seconds plus second-half strikes from Mateo Kovacic, Erling Haaland, Jérémy Doku and Josko Gvardiol were answered only by Ross Barkley’s consolation.

Guardiola said: “It was really hard, until the second goal. We were not tired as we had a lot of chances in the first half but miss something in the finishing. I have seen many times in world football a team that is better and does not win the game.”