Guardiola: Liverpool are always City’s biggest rivals for the title
Pep Guardiola insisted that Sunday’s opponents Liverpool remain Manchester City’s biggest rivals despite the gulf between the two clubs in the Premier League table.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola warned that Liverpool are still their ‘biggest challengers’ for the Premier League title despite the distance that has opened up between the two clubs in the table. Jürgen Klopp’s team trail City by 13 points ahead of Sunday’s game at Anfield. City, who have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games remaining, sit second in the league table on 23 points after nine games, one point behind leaders Arsenal.
Runners-up by just one point last season Liverpool, are way off the pace this season. They’ve won just two of their first eight league games and are mid-table in 10th. The Reds have also drawn four games - half as many as last season, and one of the reasons why they ended up losing the battle for the title.
Guardiola however says his opinion about them has not been changed by their league position. In today’s press conference he explained why, “It’s always been difficult (to visit Anfield), it’s been that way since we both arrived in England - so it’s going to be a tough game, nothing new,” he began. “The position in the table has never come into it - not just against Liverpool. The game will be dictated by what happens on the pitch - not before we are in front or behind... Nothing has changed about how I feel about Liverpool as a team - not for one second. Liverpool always have been and always will be our biggest challengers for the title. I know the quality they have, they know the quality we have. If I was asked that question with 10 games left, I would say they could not catch top of the league, with Arsenal’s lead but considering the position we are in, along with the World Cup... anything can happen”.
The City coach added that he is will never underestimate Klopp’s Liverpool, who have not lost at Anfield in front of a home crowd (i.e. not including the six defeats in 2021 which were played behind closed doors) since April 2017. “Basically because they have a good team,” he said. “Of course the crowd is important in every stadium but basically, they are a very good team. In the last two games, maybe we were a little too soft - for different circumstances. But you have to be at a top level - especially without the ball, and be active in second balls. Whether winning or losing, we’ve always played with huge personality at Anfield”.
City have been one of the most consistent teams in all of Europe’s major leagues - they have yet to lose a game in any competition and in the Premier League alone they’ve scored 33 goals in the first nine outings - an average of over three goals per game. “This is our biggest achievement as a team. But everything can change immediately. Three or four months ago Liverpool was fighting for an unprecedented situation in English football - fighting for four titles, they lost two - for one point... In the final, they had more shots on target, more chances, more everything than the opponent and lost. So for just two little details, they couldn’t achieve something that no English has ever done. This is the same team, with the same manager - we all go through bad moments, it’s just part of the nature of the competition. We try to avoid bad moments but we will have them. I pay zero attention to whether a rival is in a good moment or a bad moment, I analyse how they are as a team, expecting the best of them,” Guardiola continued.
Kyle Walker (groin), Kalvin Phillips (shoulder) and John Stones (thigh) are still sidelined and he refused to confirm whether they could be fit to play for England at next month’s World Cup. He added that striker Erling Haaland will play in Sunday’s game after he was an unused substitute in their Champions League match in midweek. The Spaniard also discussed his own contract extension negotiations, saying he is “not thinking one second” about it. His current deal is set to expire in 2023. “We have two or three weeks until the World Cup and this is an important time. After that, we have plenty of time to talk about that,” he concluded.