Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admits he is surprised that people have questioned his side’s mental strength following their Champions League exit.
The defending Premier League champions can return to the summit by avenging their Champions League quarter-final exit on Saturday, when Mauricio Pochettino’s side return to the scene of their historic achievement.
City lost three successive games last April before they returned to winning ways against Spurs to get their season back on track, while three of the side’s five Premier League defeats this season came over a four-game period over the Christmas period.
But Guardiola believes the return of Pochettino’s side to the Etihad represents a different challenge to the whirlwind two-legged tussle that reached a pulsating climax in midweek.
“It’s a different situation,” he told Sky Sports. “I don’t understand why people doubt the mental strength of this team when the last two years they have achieved what no team in English football history were able to do.
“To have 183 points with five games left, no team in this country has achieved that before [across two league seasons]. It’s impossible. This record will be difficult to beat.
“It’s incredible. You can’t achieve that many points without being mentally strong.
“We will be judged by the titles we win, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with what people think. Everything else is just personal feelings. When I am judged over the course of this season, I won’t be judged over one offside decision or one handball that isn’t given.
“I saw my players suffer and fight every three days during the season, and that’s why our fans are the only people I care about. They came to support us and they saw what we are.”
Last season when City were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool at the quarter-final stage, their next opponents were also Tottenham at Wembley.
Goals from Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling secured a 3-1 win that put City on the brink of their third Premier League title.
City will fall short of the century of points they reached last season, but a treble can still be achieved, with Guardiola’s side embroiled in a tense title race.
Guardiola was in philosophical mood about whether the season would be deemed a success if his side missed out on retaining their league title, but he hopes the disappointment of Wednesday night will drive his players on during The Run In.
He added: “The season will be incredible no matter what happens at the end of the season. We were lucky to win many titles during our careers as a footballer, and as a manager, and that is the target.
“I love the process of the way we do things. When you lift a title, it’s nice, but afterwards it’s in the cabinet, it’s over. But you live the experience, the emotions. We shared the joy the happiness with 65,000 in our stadium in the last game, but after a minute the goal wasn’t given.
“The emotion is life. To have the opportunity to live these kind of emotions is still incredible even though we lost. It hurts when you lose, but that’s life. We lived that, and our fans were part of that.
“The people follow us because there is no other activity in the world, no theatres, no cinemas, no Disneyworld that compares to this kind of emotion that can be determined in one second, and that’s nice.
“That’s why we’re in this world. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win, but maybe next time it’s going to happen.”