Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City’s 4-0 win at Leeds has brought their quest for two major trophies into sharper focus.
Guardiola admitted the scoreline at Elland Road was misleading, but City leapfrogged back to the top of the Premier League table and now have Champions League rivals Real Madrid back in their sights.
Rodri’s unopposed header from Phil Foden’s free-kick gave City a hard-fought half-time lead before Nathan Ake’s close-range finish following a corner gave them room to breathe.
Gabriel Jesus lashed home a game-clinching third goal and substitute Fernandinho drilled in a low finish in time added to lift City one point above Liverpool, who had won at Newcastle earlier in the day.
Guardiola said: “I think the result looks more comfortable than it really was, but I could not expect differently.
“We knew it. Between the Champions League game it is always difficult, especially away, especially at Elland Road, especially in the ‘final’ (for Leeds) to stay in the Premier League. ”
City will now head to Madrid for Wednesday’s second leg of their Champions League semi-final with a 4-3 advantage after Tuesday’s thrilling first leg at the Etihad.
The City boss was clearly relieved to have side-stepped a potential banana skin at Elland Road against a Leeds side desperate for points in their bid to beat the drop.
“Knowing the circumstances that we have with the Champions League, it was a really good result,” Guardiola said.
“Since I arrived (at City) I hear many times about what Elland Road means. The previous time we came here Marcelo Bielsa was the manager and it was behind closed doors, so I couldn’t feel it. Today I felt it, so I know why this is so special.
“At the end, 4-0 down, fighting to stay in the Premier League and singing, chanting, showing support.
“Leeds is one of the greatest teams in this country and I have a special sympathy for the fact Marcelo was here and hopefully they can stay up, but that is why we spoke that it will be tough today.”
City’s four goals brought them to within one of Liverpool’s goal difference and Guardiola can see a clearer path ahead in their defense of the domestic title.
“We stuck together and we reduced the goal difference. I don’t know if it’s important – but it’s in our hands, ”he added.
“Newcastle, Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa. We know exactly what we have to do and we have the same opinion.
“We win, we will be champions. We draw, they (Liverpool) will be champions. ”
Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was upbeat after his side’s first defeat in six games left them one place and five points above third-bottom Everton, who have two games in hand.
The Yorkshire club also suffered more wretched luck with injuries as Stuart Dallas was carried off the field with a season-ending knee injury after a 50-50 challenge with Jack Grealish.
Marsch said, “He’s had a scan, but I don’t want to speak too soon. It’s not great, but we’ll see it. ”
Leeds were much-improved after Monday night’s goalless draw at Crystal Palace but were undone by set-pieces for both opening goals.
“If you take out those two goals, the first 70 were pretty good,” Marsch added. “A team like City can hurt you in so many ways, but we had a lot of control.
“I challenged the guys and I’m proud of them. The best part is we saw the fans’ response.
“A 4-0 loss at home and you saw so much passion and love for this team and this club.
“Some people may have felt I was being facetious about the best club (Leeds) versus the best team (City), but I meant that.”