EPL

Liverpool's relentless pursuit of Man City no surprise to Gundogan

By Sports Desk February 20, 2022

Ilkay Gundogan says Liverpool's relentless pursuit of Manchester City in the Premier League title race is "not a situation that we're not used to".

City were beaten 3-2 by Tottenham in a classic encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Harry Kane netted an injury-time winner shortly after Riyad Mahrez's penalty had seemingly earned the hosts a point.

Liverpool's own come-from-behind 3-1 triumph over Norwich City means the Reds are six points back of leaders City, with a game in hand over the reigning champions.

Jurgen Klopp's side have racked up five straight league wins and suffered just one top-flight defeat in their past 14, while they still have to visit their rivals early in April.

For midfielder Gundogan, the thrilling tussle is just part and parcel of what has become the norm over recent seasons.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: "It's not a situation that we're not used to.

"We know from recent years that Liverpool are always contenders. They're always up there.

"We know they'll try everything to make our lives as difficult as possible. The good thing is that they still need to come here to the Etihad, but there are still many games to go."

Gundogan had already levelled from Dejan Kulusevski's opener, before Kane – a City transfer target prior to the season – put Spurs back ahead just before the hour.

Mahrez's thumping spot-kick in additional time looked certain to have clinched City a point prior to Kane's dramatic late intervention.

"We kind of thought we'd rescued it," Gundogan conceded.

"If you look at the whole game, we deserved to win. But football is sometimes crazy and we made easy mistakes. We gave them the ball to have possibilities to counter and that made us lose the game.

"They were also ruthless in their finishing up front. We had a lot of chances and the possibility to score a few more goals, but we gave them the chances they had too easily. 

"It didn't feel like a bad game from us. They defended so, so deep, particularly towards the end of the first half. It's not so easy.

"Sometimes you have these kind of games and you need to learn from it. It's a wake-up call for us. There's still a long way to go."

Related items

  • Ronaldo headlines Portugal squad for Euro 2024 Ronaldo headlines Portugal squad for Euro 2024

    Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Portugal into his 11th major international tournament after being named in Roberto Martinez's 26-man squad for Euro 2024.

    Ronaldo opted against retiring from international football after Portugal suffered a surprise exit at the hands of Morocco at the 2022 World Cup, remaining an integral part of the Selecao setup under Martinez. 

    His 14 European Championship goals are an all-time tournament record, putting him five clear of Michel Platini, and he will look to widen that gap in Germany this year.

    Portugal, who won all 10 of their qualifiers while scoring 36 goals, will open their Group F campaign against the Czech Republic before facing Turkey and Georgia. 

    There are few surprises in Martinez's squad overall, with Manchester City's Matheus Nunes and fellow midfielder Renato Sanches among the most notable absentees.

    Bayern Munich's Raphael Guerreiro is absent after missing the end of the Bundesliga campaign through injury, but Wolves winger Pedro Neto is included despite only returning from a hamstring issue on the final day of the Premier League season.

    He is one of 10 players from England's top flight to receive the call-up, with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes and City star Bernardo Silva among the biggest names to make the cut. 

    Unlike England boss Gareth Southgate, Martinez opted against naming an expanded squad and cutting it down to 26 closer to the tournament, so his final party will take on Finland, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in warm-up friendlies next month. 

    Full 26-man squad: Diogo Costa (Porto), Jose Sa (Wolves), Rui Patricio (Roma), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain), Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Goncalo Inacio (Sporting CP), Joao Cancelo (Barcelona), Nelson Semedo (Wolves), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Neves (Benfica), Joao Palhinha (Fulham), Otavio Monteiro (Al-Nassr), Ruben Neves (Al-Hilal), Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Al-Nassr), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Francisco Conceicao (Porto), Goncalo Ramos (Paris Saint-Germain), Joao Felix (Barcelona), Pedro Neto (Wolves), Rafael Leao (Milan).

  • Rashford and Henderson omitted from preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 Rashford and Henderson omitted from preliminary England squad for Euro 2024

    Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson have been omitted from Gareth Southgate's 33-man preliminary squad for England's Euro 2024 campaign.

    Rashford scored 30 goals in all competitions for Manchester United in 2022-23 and has been a fixture in Southgate's England squads, but a dismal 2023-24 campaign has led to him being overlooked.

    He scored seven goals in 33 Premier League appearances this season, making it his second worst campaign since netting five times as a teenager in 2016-17. He scored just four times under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick in 2021-22.

    Newcastle United's Anthony Gordon has benefitted from Rashford's drop-off, receiving the call-up ahead of June's warm-up friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland.

    Henderson, meanwhile, has seen his England place fiercely debated since he left Liverpool to join Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq last year. 

    The 33-year-old was booed by some England fans during a friendly win over Australia last October, having suggested his presence in Saudi Arabia could be a "positive" thing for LGBTQ+ rights in the country in a widely criticised interview with The Athletic.

    Henderson – who has 81 senior England caps – swapped Al-Ettifaq for Ajax in January in a bid to ensure he made Southgate's squad, but that effort has been unsuccessful. 

    Henderson made nine Eredivisie appearances for Ajax in 2023-24, failing to prevent them from finishing fifth, their lowest position since 1999-00 (also fifth).

    His exclusion, which could spell the end of his international career, has opened the door for a surprise call-up for Adam Wharton, who has excelled since joining Crystal Palace from Blackburn Rovers in January.

    The 20-year-old, who has only been capped once at under-21 level, contributed to a stunning upturn under Oliver Glasner as Palace clinched a top-half Premier League finish.

    Palace have won 24 points in 13 Premier League games under Glasner. From his first match on February 24 onwards, only Manchester City (35), Arsenal (34) and Chelsea (28) bettered their tally.

    Wharton's Palace team-mate Eberechi Eze is also in after scoring 11 goals and registering four assists in 2023-24, while Liverpool's Curtis Jones is another uncapped midfielder to make the squad.

    Elsewhere, Southgate has several fitness concerns among his defensive cohort, and Chelsea full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell are two big-name omissions after enduring injury-hit campaigns. 

    Chilwell, who also missed the 2022 World Cup through injury, was limited to just 756 minutes across 13 Premier League appearances this campaign. 

    James, meanwhile, returned from a long-term hamstring injury in a 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest recently, but saw his season end one game early when he was sent off in a victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

    Liverpool's Jarell Quansah, Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite, Palace's Marc Guehi and Brighton and Hove Albion's Lewis Dunk have all been included at centre-back alongside regular starters Harry Maguire and John Stones, while Luke Shaw is also in despite missing long periods through injury.

    Captain Harry Kane is also present after missing the end of Bayern Munich's season with a back issue, which required him to travel back to England to undergo treatment.

    Southgate will cut his squad down to 26 players after England face Iceland in their final pre-tournament friendly at Wembley Stadium on June 7.

    Full 33-man squad: Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), James Trafford (Burnley), Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Jarell Quansah (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).
  • Man City 'head and shoulders' above all teams in Premier League era, says James Man City 'head and shoulders' above all teams in Premier League era, says James

    Manchester City's current crop stand "head and shoulders" above all other teams in the Premier League era after winning four straight titles, says the club's former goalkeeper David James.

    City became the first team in English top-flight history to win four successive titles on Sunday, a 3-1 win over West Ham ensuring they pipped Arsenal by two points.

    Huddersfield Town (1923-1926), Arsenal (1932-1935) and Liverpool (1981-1984) all won the old First Division three times in a row, while Manchester United achieved the feat twice in the Premier League era (1998-2001 and 2006-2009).

    Pep Guardiola's men ended the campaign with a nine-match winning streak, while they are now unbeaten in their last 35 matches across all competitions (29 wins, six draws), the longest such run ever recorded by a Premier League team.

    They have the chance to make more history on Saturday, as they can clinch unprecedented back-to-back league and FA Cup doubles against Manchester United.

    For James, who spent two years with City between 2004 and 2006, Guardiola's champions have cemented their legacy as the Premier League's finest.

    "They're up there. The fact they've broken the record means that no one's done better than them over that period," he told Stats Perform.

    "From the moment they first won that Premier League title to now, they have been head and shoulders better than anyone else. 

    "It's thoroughly deserved and one of the funny things that I love is the way they celebrate. You would think after four in a row that it would be, ‘okay, lads, let's get back in and worry about the FA Cup on the weekend'. They celebrate like they haven't got another match! 

    "This is a group of players and staff who are all with each other, all behind each other, all enjoying all these moments. 

    "I can't think of a team who's had that much dominance over that period of time. They just keep breaking records, don't they?"

    Over the last four seasons, City's total of 359 Premier League points are 49 more than anyone else, while they have averaged 2.4 points per game and won 73.7 per cent of their league matches.

    While James does not feel City's class of 2023-24 have been quite as relentless as 2022-23's treble winners, he says they always seemed to be in control in the run-in.

    "I think it's interesting when we look at the whole season, because I don't think there's been a spell where City have absolutely smashed teams," James said. 

    "I've followed a lot of the games this season where they've won but haven't been overly impressive, especially compared to last season. 

    "But in a way, I could detect from the beginning of the season there was something different about the way Pep was approaching it. I don't think it was all the guts and thunder of last season. 

    "They always had it under control and it was just like a Mo Farah finish, they put the afterburners on at the end."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.