Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has tried to downplay the importance of the club’s Premier League home game against Liverpool this weekend, calling Jurgen Klopp’s side ‘the biggest’ to claim the title this season. Favorite’.
After back-to-back top-flight crowns, City finished second in the Premier League last season, finishing an 18-point gap behind Liverpool. However, both teams have been beaten by impressive margins in the opening weeks of the current campaign and will meet for the first time this season at City’s Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Here’s what Guardiola had to say in his pre-match press conference, ahead of the clash between two of the top sides in England in the last few years.
Guardiola (left) has been forced to do without striker Sergio Aguero for several months as the Argentine’s injury problems mount /Poll/Getty Images
For most of the campaign, Guardiola has been without two of his senior strikers, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. The Brazilian, 23, returned for a brief role in the Champions League against Olympiakos in midweek but when Guardiola was asked about Aguero’s availability, he replied simply: “No, he’s not ready,” as That was quoted by the Manchester Evening News. Yet.”
Guardiola may be trying to play down the importance of the game, but his last match against Klopp was irrelevant as Liverpool had already won the title / DAVE THOMPSON/Getty Images
Last season City might have been in Liverpool’s shadow but in the 2018/19 campaign Guardiola’s side bested Klopp’s outfit by just one point, with many suggesting their 2-1 victory in the match The result was decisive.
In an attempt to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on his players, Guardiola said: “It’s an important game but all the votes must count, just like in the presidential election in America. [There are] Lots of points to play for. Of course it’s important but it’s only the seventh game and there are a lot of points to play for.
Liverpool’s three forward line found the net in midweek / Emilio Andreoli / Getty Images
“We know we have to do well to beat them, we have won and lost in the past. We are trying our best to beat them.
“It’s always good to play against strong teams and they were stronger last year. They’re an exceptional team, they’ve had the same manager for a long time and we’re always facing them to improve our level. it looks nice.”
Liverpool will be without their talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk after the Dutch international suffered a painful knee injury in the Merseyside derby earlier this season. However, in his absence, Liverpool still managed to thrash Atalanta 5-0 in their midweek Champions League meeting.
Guardiola emphasized the Reds’ strength, saying: “I will miss him, I like playing with the best players on the pitch and Liverpool are an incredibly top team because the structure is there, every player knows that. What he has to do. And the result against Atalanta – we faced them last season and know how difficult it is to beat them – and they did it. Liverpool remain a top-class team.”
Could Solskjaer be sacked after Everton game? Who comes out on top between City and Liverpool? ?
??? ????’ ?????? with…
∙ @HunterGodson https://t.co/n3NuHxPBxH
— 90 Minutes (@90min_Football) November 5, 2020
Liverpool top the table at the weekend but Guardiola highlighted the number of potential title challengers this season, explaining: “They are the biggest favorites but with the pandemic the situation is a bit different. I see other teams stronger. Yes, Leicester kept level. For most of last season, Arsenal took a big step towards becoming contenders and [at] Tottenham Mourinho has the team he wants.
“Chelsea are now very stable to begin with and have a huge squad to rotate the top players. [Manchester] United are not results-wise at the moment but we saw their quality last season, we suffered a lot in results and up front they are incredibly quick and clinical.
“I think there will be a lot of teams this season, the last five to ten games will be important to get there to fight for the title. Hopefully we can get there and have a chance to fight for the final. Title.”
Two of the best in the business…
Who will you manage your club? ? pic.twitter.com/f8cN1lfTJh
— 90 Minutes (@90min_Football) November 6, 2020
“When you play against teams like Liverpool you always have moments where you have to suffer. We know that, we have to do it and try to use our strengths as much as possible. We know each other well, we play a lot of times. And I don’t expect a game like 90 minutes that we will be there or they will be there.
“It’s going to be up and down, we have to be steady and take our good chances and be clinical. Both teams want to attack, both teams want to try. Generally, we’ve had games – over 90 minutes. No because we are not ready. To maintain the level but in general it was good.”