Pep Guardiola hails collective effort of Manchester City ahead of Liverpool clash

Premier League leaders, despite being without Aguero and De Bruyne, could go 10 points clear of reigning champions if they win at Anfield on Sunday

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan, left, celebrates with Manchester City's Phil Foden after scoring his side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at the Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (Nick Potts/Pool via AP)
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Manchester City head to Anfield without the greatest goalscorer and the reigning PFA Player of the Year and with the chance to go 10 points ahead of the reigning champions. If Liverpool felt their title defence was ending with Wednesday’s defeat to Brighton, City have the chance to supply the knockout blow.

Should Pep Guardiola win his third Premier League title, it will be a triumph of the collective. City are invariably described as star-studded but they are shorn of Sergio Aguero and lacking Kevin de Bruyne. Rather than being a star vehicle, their manager believes they are a team that is greater than the sum of their parts.

Perhaps the division’s best defensive record reflects that. Ruben Dias has been a revelation and John Stones is enjoying the best form of his life but six successive clean sheets are not secured by any one player, nor even a partnership. Guardiola looked further up the field for evidence of a shared commitment.

Minus the injury-hit Aguero, who is recovering from coronavirus and whose last league goal came in January 2020, City’s joint-leading marksman is Ilkay Gundogan – alongside Raheem Sterling – who already has a career-best total of seven goals. But the fact the German only has 17 per cent of City’s goals illustrates how everyone has contributed.

“Our top scorer has seven goals in the Premier League,” said Guardiola, noting that 13 other players began the weekend with more. “If anyone is going to save us it's the group: that's everyone. When this happens we can compete.

"When we believe that it is myself that is going to do it, or this guy alongside me is going to win the game then we are going to lose. Our success all the time is [not just] the quality we have as a players but being as a team.

"In the statistics we are far away from the best clubs but our statistic as a team is really good. That is why we are first. If we don’t understand we have done everything so far, all together, if we don’t continue to understand this, we are going to drop.”

City have made light of absentees at times; indeed, it has brought the best from Guardiola. When a rash of Covid-19 cases meant he only had 14 senior outfield players at Chelsea, he used De Bruyne as a false nine who inspired a 3-1 win.


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City’s previous game at Everton had been postponed – Jurgen Klopp wrongly said City had a two-week break because of coronavirus – and Guardiola was surprised a manager he admires had strayed into the world of mind games in the build-up to a game.

It is something when he tries to avoid doing. “Sometimes I did it, I admit, but it was a mistake,” he said. “I say to my players, when you complain you find excuses and when you find excuses you cannot go forward.”

City have struggled to progress at Anfield, a place where they have not won since 2003. Klopp has more victories against Guardiola than any other manager and Raheem Sterling has not scored away against his old employers since his 2015 move.

"The last game, when we lost 3-1, he made an incredible game, an exceptional game," Guardiola said. "I am more than satisfied with this."

But this will be Anfield with a difference, which may give City a greater chance than usual. “Life is different,” Guardiola said. “This season is exceptional because the world is exceptional. We don’t have fans in the stadium and the world is weird.

"I have to go to meetings for two or three different groups [due to social-distancing restrictions], the players cannot take a shower here in the CFA so everything is different.”


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