Clubs, English Premier League, Manchester City, Story

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Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol explains how the Reds can exploit Manchester City’s weaknesses and hand Pep Guardiola’s side their first league defeat.
ESPN FC’s Jonathan Smith and Mark Ogden break down the keys to Sunday’s Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola refuses to consider his Manchester City team as champions in waiting.

City appear to be cruising towards the Premier League crown having won 20 of their opening 22 games — and drawn the other two — to open up a 15-point lead at the top of the table.

But Guardiola is not taking anything for granted and is not looking too far ahead. The City boss, whose side face Liverpool in an eagerly-anticipated clash on Sunday, said: “In football and in sport, anything can happen.

“Of course we can lose the title because you never know what is going to happen in the next 13 or 14 games you have to play. Of course, if we maintain our level, the consistency and the way we play, then OK, we have a chance. But you never know.

“If we start to go down, and lose confidence, and don’t play well regularly, then we will see. Maybe that is going to happen, and I am going to shake the hand of my opponents and congratulate them for being champions.

“But it is simple — just focus on the next game. That is the best advice I can give to my players.”

This weekend’s trip to Anfield brings together two of the most entertaining sides in the competition. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are in good form having gone unbeaten in their last 13 league fixtures.

With the Reds also bolstered this month by the £75 million signing of defender Virgil van Dijk, Guardiola believes the Merseysiders are as exciting as in their 1980s heyday.

He said: “Jurgen Klopp is a master of the counter-attack, so they’re a team who can arrive in the finishing area in three or four touches.

“[Mohamed] Salah and [Sadio] Mane are tough guys for us to control, especially when we lose the ball in dangerous positions, because they are so fast, so quick and so clever in the box.

“Of course, [Philippe] Coutinho’s not there, in the middle, with the talent that he has, but [Georginio] Wijnaldum and Emre Can are, and [Adam] Lallana’s come back. These are guys who have energy, are strong, are good at set-pieces.

“I think Liverpool are playing like Liverpool were in the past, with all their history. The fans are demanding attacking football. Liverpool have to defend their whole history. In the 80s they dominated the world and European football. I think they are trying to respect that.

“We want to do something quite similar. We want to try to be the best.”

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