City must beat Liverpool to stay in title race: Guardiola

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero looks on during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City, on Dec 30, 2018.
Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero looks on during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City, on Dec 30, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Win or bust. That was the stark message from Pep Guardiola to his Manchester City players, that failure to beat Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday would effectively end their title tilt.

The Premier League champions revived their bid to retain their title with a 3-1 win at Southampton on Sunday that followed shock defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester.

City are still seven points behind leaders Liverpool and Guardiola knows his side have zero margin for error now, saying: "We knew it, that with the position of Liverpool, if we drop points, then it (the title race) is over.

"It would be almost impossible. Of course, they are going to drop points but not too many.

"If you want to be there as far as possible until the end, we have to remember what happened last season and this as well - apart from the last few days."

He was adamant he had not lost confidence in his side, despite the Palace and Leicester reverses.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

We knew it, that with the position of Liverpool, if we drop points, then it (the title race) is over. It would be almost impossible. Of course, they are going to drop points but not too many.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Manchester City manager, on the importance of Thursday's heavyweight clash with Liverpool.

"How can I doubt them?," said the Spaniard. "Football is like this. We make 30 exceptional minutes again, especially without the ball, we create chances to go 2-0 or 3-0, we concede one goal.

"Against Palace and Leicester, they were happy with 1-1 and they found a second one.

"I always judge our intentions of the game and always our intentions are to try."

But Guardiola also admitted the monumental task facing his side as they were facing "the best team in Europe or the world".

He added: "That's why it's a challenge for us (on) Thursday, to try and win and sustain this position as far as possible to arrive at the end of the season fighting for the title.

"We won a lot of games but unfortunately we lost two and we have a rival (Liverpool) who at the moment is the best."

City may again be without Kevin de Bruyne against Liverpool after he missed the Saints game with a muscle problem, but Guardiola rejected suggestions that their victory over Ralph Hasenhuttl's men had "sent a message" to the Reds.

He told reporters: "Liverpool know what they have to do, we know what we have to do (on) Thursday.

"Of course, it's important to win. It's almost a final for us and we want to be there as long as possible for the Premier League.

"I know the distance is big, seven points, especially because they're so solid and consistent, but we're at home.

"Hopefully our people at the Etihad can help, they can support us. Not just for the game, but these players deserve it. What they have done in the last 14 or 15 months, how they defend this club is incredible, it's massive."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'City must beat Liverpool to stay in title race: Guardiola'. Print Edition | Subscribe