Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has hailed Premier League leaders Liverpool as the best team in Europe, but said his side could take inspiration from last season’s 5-0 win at the Etihad Stadium ahead of Thursday’s showdown between the two.
City’s thumping of the Merseysiders last season was one of the highlights of their title success but Guardiola’s side have run into trouble this season, losing three of their last five league games to sit third with 47 points.
Unbeaten Liverpool have taken full advantage of City’s dip in form to open up a seven point lead above them and raise fans’ hopes of a first league title since 1990, but Guardiola reminded his gifted team of their potential to close the gap.
“Last year we beat them 5-0 here. It’s Liverpool, the best team in England’s history. We can beat them. I know today nobody trusts us but it is what it is,” Spaniard Guardiola told a news conference on Wednesday.
Liverpool responded to the 5-0 defeat with a 4-3 victory at Anfield to hand City their first defeat of the last campaign and Guardiola acknowledged their threat.
“They are in the moment the best team in Europe, in the consistency, the way they control the details in their game. We are going to focus on what we have to do to win the game. Everyone is talking if we lose, but we can win,” he said.
The teams’ latest meeting ended goalless earlier this season and Guardiola likened Thursday’s game to the second leg of a knockout clash.
“The reality is clear. We’re seven points down. This will be the second game of the second leg so there are a lot of points to play for,” Guardiola added.
Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne missed the 3-1 win at Southampton last time out due to a muscle injury as City snapped a two-game losing run and the Belgium international could play a part in the crunch match.
“He trained today but tomorrow we need another check in the morning. He’s much better,” Guardiola said.
Man City must stick to their style to close gap on Liverpool: Aguero
Unbeaten Liverpool have capitalised on City’s blip in form to open up a six-point lead at the top, ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, but Aguero believes his team must stick to the formula that has worked well for them in the past.
“Our focus should be on our own game. We’re confident in our playing style and believe it’s the most effective to lead us to victory,” Aguero told City’s website.
“This is football after all though, and anything can happen, but we will play as we always play as it has served us so well.”
City returned to winning ways at Southampton but another defeat in the biggest game of the season on Thursday would leave Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side in an even stronger position to win their first league title since 1990.
“December didn’t pan out the way we wanted and now we’ve got more ground to make up … that makes the game more important,” Aguero said.
“There’s no denying it’s a huge game for both clubs. Direct clashes between leading teams have a major impact towards the end of the season. Football always gives a chance to even the score.”