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PREMIER LEAGUE

Guardiola unsure on De Bruyne fitness for Liverpool showdown

Guardiola unsure on De Bruyne fitness for Liverpool showdown

Getty Images

Manchester City returned to winning ways against Southampton but they might be without Kevin De Bruyne once more when they host Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola does not know whether Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will be fit to face Liverpool on Thursday. City trimmed the Reds' advantage at the top of the table to seven points with a restorative 3-1 win at Southampton on Sunday – David Silva and Sergio Agüero on target either side of a James Ward-Prowse own-goal.

De Bruyne made his first Premier League start of the season in the Boxing Day defeat at Leicester City following a pair of medial knee ligament injuries but he was absent from Guardiola's matchday squad at St Mary's. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss told a post-match news conference the Belgium star's latest setback is not serious, but he is unsure if he will be available to take on Jürgen Klopp's side.

“I don't know how Kevin De Bruyne is," he said. "I know it's not serious, but I don't know if he can play on Thursday.”

Agüero shakes hands with Guardiola after being subbed

Defeat to Liverpool would crush City's title defence - Guardiola

Guardiola conceded it will be "almost impossible" for City to retain their title if they lose to Liverpool, adding: "Of course, I think they'll drop points but not too many.”

Southampton FC v Manchester City - Premier League

Zinchenko puts it on a plate for Agüero

Injury and suspension issues have led to the City manager asking players to carry out unfamiliar roles over recent weeks, and Oleksandr Zinchenko was caught out for Southampton's equaliser through Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was later sent off for a rash lunge on the excellent Fernandinho. Ukraine midfielder Zinchenko, deployed at left-back, then escaped punishment for a clumsy challenge on Ward-Prowse in the area but regained his poise to deliver a superb cross that Agüero headed home.

"Zinchenko was the best player on the pitch today," Guardiola beamed. "Do you know why? Because after the mistake he didn't hide. I said to the guys at half-time, 'Learn from Zinchenko'. Everybody can make mistakes, everybody. But look at him for the reaction."

Agüero, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling all went close to adding further goals for City and Guardiola repeated a familiar lament of asking his team to be more clinical. "It could've been 1-6 or 1-7, you have to score the chances," he said. "I'm pretty sure Liverpool won't give us that many chances. Last season we scored 106 goals, the best ever [in a Premier League campaign], but I thought we could've scored more."