LONDON • Pep Guardiola has compared Manchester City’s Premier League challenge with the US presidential election in a bid to downplay the impact of today’s home clash with Liverpool, pointing out “all the votes must be counted”.
City and Liverpool have been the two dominant sides in England for the past three years, with the Reds running away with the league last season after back-to-back titles for Guardiola’s men.
However, with City just six games into their season and every team in the top flight having dropped points in at least two games, Guardiola believes he must steer his side into contention over the long haul.
“It’s an important game but, like the presidential elections in the United States of America, all the votes must be counted,” he said on Friday. “So there are a lot of points to play (for).
“It’s always nice to play against the strongest teams and last year they were stronger. They are an exceptional team, they have had the same manager for a long time and it is nice to face him all the time to improve our level.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men have already dropped four points in seven games, more than they did in their opening 27 last season.
Of more lasting damage to their title credentials, they have also lost the towering presence of Dutchman Virgil van Dijk.
The defender is expected to miss the season with a cruciate ligament injury similar to Aymeric Laporte’s that derailed City last term.
But Guardiola believes the Reds showed their strength with a 5-0 thrashing of Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“Liverpool remain an incredible, top team because the structure is there, they know exactly every player what they have to do. The result against Atalanta, we know how difficult it is to beat them away, and they did it,” he said.
“That’s why Liverpool remain a top, top-class team.”
Like presidential elections in the United States of America, all the votes must be counted. So there are a lot of points to play (for).
Everybody in life, we have to grow in situations like this and he did that. He was pretty much thrown in cold water.
11-1 Aggregate score, in favour of Manchester City, in their last three league games against Liverpool at the Etihad.
9 in 10 Wins Man City have registered when playing against the reigning champions.
15 Goals Liverpool have conceded in the league this season. Only West Brom have let in more than the Reds.
However, he expects a much tighter title race this season, with Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester also posing a threat.
“They (Liverpool) are the biggest favourites, but I think what happened with the pandemic this season is different so I see other teams really strong,” he added.
“Leicester remain incredibly solid, Arsenal make a big step forward, Tottenham – (Jose) Mourinho got the team like he wants – Chelsea now are so stable, not conceding goals, a huge squad to rotate top players.
“Manchester United are not there in terms of results right now, but I know their quality.
“I think this season will be a lot of teams being there and the last five to 10 games, it will be important to arrive with the chance to fight for the title.”
Klopp has heaped praise on Joe Gomez after the England centre-back helped the club navigate their injury crisis in defence.
Besides van Dijk, Joel Matip and stand-in centre-back Fabinho have also suffered injuries.
In their absence, Gomez has been a steadying influence and has helped steer Liverpool to five straight wins in all competitions.
“He’s had so many different (centre-back) partners but he was always the kid in the line pretty much and that changed now completely,” Klopp said.
“Everybody in life, we have to grow in situations like this and he did that. He was pretty much thrown in cold water. But I’m really happy with his performances.”
Matip returned to the squad for the thrashing of Atalanta and is in contention to start today.
Liverpool, however, will be without injured midfielder Thiago Alcantara as they look to go eight points clear of City (11).
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
MAN CITY V LIVERPOOL
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