Pep Guardiola said he was "not a magician" when asked about Manchester City's title chances after his side were beaten 3-1 by Premier League leaders Liverpool.

The defeat was City's second in five top-flight matches and left the champions nine points behind Liverpool, who remain unbeaten after 12 games this season.

Fourth-placed City will entertain third-placed Chelsea in their first game back after the international break and Guardiola said he hoped his side would maintain the level of performance they showed at Anfield.

Asked whether Liverpool could be caught, Guardiola said: "I don't know, I am not a magician. I cannot know the future.

"Hopefully after the national team, people come back and then [we face] Chelsea at home.

"What happened today is we showed why we are the champions. In this stadium we played incredible.

"I am proud of my team more than ever against the strongest team in Europe. I am so proud. We played so good."

Guardiola was incensed on the sidelines as key decisions went against his side, with City's pleas for handball against Trent Alexander-Arnold waved away when they claimed for a penalty.

He refused to discuss the decisions after the game, and insisted - with tongue firmly in cheek - his thanks to officials while shaking hands at the final whistle were genuine.

To the suggestion of sarcasm, Guardiola replied: "No way, I congratulate them. And I didn't say anything here.

"It would not be so nice after a defeat to complain about the referees, so ask the referees. Ask the referees, please not me.

"Ask [referees chief] Mike Riley and the guys in the VAR and the other ones.

"I would like to talk about our performance. As an opponent, with the problems that we have, it was one of the best ways we played.

"We played in the way that is why we are back-to-back champions. We showed that many times.

"There are three teams in front that have more chances to be champions than us but we are going to try.

"In football, you can't always win in here in Anfield. I am so proud of my team."

Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded he feared a VAR intervention for handball prior to Liverpool's opener in their crucial 3-1 over Manchester City at Anfield.

City's players and manager Pep Guardiola were left seething when referee Michael Oliver did not award a penalty against the Reds full-back, who appeared to handle in the area, early in the blockbuster contest at Anfield.

Fabinho rifled Liverpool into a sixth-minute lead shortly after, before Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane goals took the game away from City, who earned a consolation through Bernardo Silva.

Asked by Sky Sports if he feared the worse, Alexander-Arnold replied: "Obviously, yeah you know there's VAR, I think it has hit me arm, but I think it's hit Bernardo Silva's first. 

"It's one of those you have to carry on playing, we went down the other end and punished them. They complained but you have to keep on playing."

Liverpool's win sees them head into the international break with an eight-point lead at the top of the table, while the gap of nine to champions City is potentially more significant.

The Reds earned 97 points last term and were still pipped to the title by City and Alexander-Arnold says Liverpool will need similar levels of astounding consistency to triumph this time around.

"We're on a good run, we are still unbeaten, at home we have the advantage with the fans so every time we are here we want to pick up the three points we feel we should," he added.

"We picked up a lot last season to get to 97 points and it wasn't enough and we know we have to do something similar this time."

The end of the match became a little terse between the rival teams but Alexander-Arnold says that is to be expected in a game of this magnitude.

"It was always going to be a feisty contest," he said. "It was just about desire at the end of the day because both teams wanted to win." 

Liverpool ruthlessly dispatched title rivals Manchester City 3-1 in a barnstorming clash at Anfield to open up a commanding eight-point gap at the top of the Premier League.

Fabinho rifled the Reds into a sixth-minute lead moments after the visitors were left seething when Trent Alexander-Arnold was not punished for a seeming handball in the penalty area.

Mohamed Salah doubled the lead in a pulsating start and Sadio Mane completed the ransacking early in the second half as Liverpool's hopes of ending 30 years of title pain earned a monumental boost despite Bernardo Silva's 78th-minute strike giving the visitors late hope of a revival.

Liverpool – who are now unbeaten in 17 Premier League contests with City at Anfield – have an eight-point lead over Chelsea and Leicester City but perhaps far more significant for Jurgen Klopp's men, is the cushion of nine they have over Pep Guardiola's defending champions.

City were outraged not to be awarded a fifth-minute penalty for handball against Alexander-Arnold and their sense of injustice was exacerbated less 60 seconds later when Fabinho picked up Ilkay Gundogan's poor clearance and lashed home an unstoppable 25-yard thunderbolt.

Despite the setback, the away side continued to press the issue but Raheem Sterling wastefully headed wide from Kevin De Bruyne's whipped free-kick and City were made to pay.

Alexander-Arnold's exquisite cross-field ball found Andy Robertson, whose sublime left-wing cross was nodded home by Salah.

Sergio Aguero tested Alisson and surprise inclusion Angelino clipped the post in an action-packed first half, while Roberto Firmino and Salah drew good stops from City's stand-in keeper Claudio Bravo.

The game was essentially put to bed six minutes after the restart when Jordan Henderson hung up a wonderful cross from the right that Mane gleefully headed in at the far post.

Sterling and Alexander-Arnold were both denied penalties before City game themselves a glimmer of hope when Angelino's low centre was drilled home, via a slight kiss of the post, from Silva.

City had Liverpool on edge again shortly after but Gabriel Jesus failed to make clean contact when Sterling had seemingly laid one on a plate.

Another claim for handball against Alexander-Arnold went unheard and Jesus wasted another golden opportunity as Liverpool saw it out to lay down a huge marker.


What does it mean? It's a long way back for City

Talk of diving and 'tactical fouls' dominated the build-up to this blockbuster clash but any thought Liverpool may have been rattled by the perceived attempt at mind games was quickly dispelled. Last term, City took four points off the Reds which proved vital in pipping Klopp's men by the narrowest of margins. It is too soon to say City's chances of a third straight title are over, but there is now absolutely no room for error for Guardiola's side.

Fabulous Fabinho justifies Klopp's gamble

With four yellow cards to his name this term, Fabinho has been walking the fabled 'disciplinary tightrope'. Klopp opted to rest the Brazil international in last week's late come-from-behind win at Aston Villa in order to avoid him being banned against City. It was a gamble that paid dividends, with the defensive midfielder lashing home the opener and doing his part to shackle City's midfield. 

More Anfield woe for Aguero

For a player with Aguero's incredible scoring record it is remarkable he has now failed to score in eight appearances at Anfield. The Argentina striker had plenty of opportunities to break that duck but was uncharacteristically poor before being hauled off for Jesus in the 71st minute.

What's next?

Liverpool take a sizeable lead at the top of the table into the international window and resume Premier League duties at Crystal Palace on November 23. City face a tough task at home to Chelsea on the same day.

Rodri made a surprise return to the Manchester City starting line-up for Sunday's blockbuster Premier League clash against Liverpool, with Claudio Bravo replacing injured goalkeeper Ederson as expected for the champions.

Spain midfielder Rodri has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury during City's 5-1 Champions League win over Atalanta last month but makes an ahead-of-schedule return at Anfield, where leaders Liverpool are aiming to extend their six-point advantage over Pep Guardiola's side.

A fitness setback during this week's return versus Atalanta might have the greatest impact upon City's prospects, with Ederson's thigh problem heralding a first top-flight appearance since May 2018 for Chile international Bravo, who was sent off after being introduced as a substitute at San Siro on Wednesday.

Angelino is the other eyebrow-raising inclusion in the City XI, with fellow left-back Benjamin Mendy not in the matchday squad.

David Silva, who limped out of last weekend's 2-1 win over Southampton, makes the bench.

By contrast, Liverpool line up as expected – Dejan Lovren partnering Virgil van Dijk at centre-back in Joel Matip's continued absence, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's impressive Champions League outings have not been enough to dislodged either of Jordan Henderson or Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield.

Fernandinho lines up at centre-back once more for Manchester City and, along with John Stones, the captain must lead the defensive effort to contain Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Raheem Sterling – against his former team – and Bernardo Silva will flank Sergio Aguero in the City attack, with the club's all-time record scorer still searching for a first Anfield goal.

Unai Emery reached the milestone of 50 Premier League matches in charge of Arsenal on Saturday in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, but an overriding sense of disappointment is all he has managed to establish at the club.

Emery arrived in 2018 as Arsene Wenger's replacement, with the Frenchman ultimately paying the price for going 14 years without winning the title.

In fairness to Wenger, spending at the club was significantly reduced in the wake of their move to the Emirates Stadium, particularly when compared to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool over the same period.

It was hoped Emery's introduction would bring a fresh approach and winning mentality after years of stagnation at Arsenal. However, despite his trophy successes in previous spells with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain, some – justifiably – had doubts about the Spaniard's style of play and training methods often criticised as boring.

After reaching 50 Premier League games, it is difficult at present to see him lasting much longer and his record compared to the division's best highlights the gulf in class.

Going backwards after Wenger

Emery's Arsenal have averaged 1.74 points per game across his 50 matches in the top flight. Of those in charge of the traditional 'big six', that figure is only better than Mauricio Pochettino (1.7) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (1.30) over their 50 most recent Premier League games – though the latter's figures are obviously skewed by his spell at Cardiff City.

That's where the positives end in terms of points per game for Emery, however.

Jurgen Klopp (2.62) and Pep Guardiola (2.52) are way out in front over their past 50 matches, while Frank Lampard – who has only taken charge of 12 in the Premier League – has accumulated a respectable 2.17 points per outing.

Similarly, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has done significantly better, averaging 1.84 points per game across his last 50 matches in the Premier League with Liverpool and the Foxes.

But the real kicker is the comparison with the much-maligned Wenger, whose 1.76 average means he too collected more points over his final 50 games at Arsenal than Emery has in his first 50.

Way behind the most prolific scorers

Wenger's Arsenal also scored more than Emery's side. During the Frenchman's final 50 games, they scored 96 times, seven more than they have with the Basque coach.

City have set the bar in terms of scoring over the period in question, netting 130 times, 12 more than Liverpool.

Defensively it is the other way round. While City's record of 33 allowed is exceptional, Liverpool's is even better at just 31.

Arsenal's defensive woes have been well-documented under Emery, with Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos hardly convincing.

As such, they have conceded 68 times since the start of last season, more than double both City and Liverpool and four more than in Wenger's final stretch.

Emery's already had enough time to solve issues

Emery can at least point to the fact he has lost fewer matches (13) than Wenger (16) did over the periods highlighted, though it's a pretty hollow victory.

Klopp and Liverpool again set the standard here, having lost just one of their past 50 Premier League matches, though even Rodgers has been beaten fewer times than Emery over his 50 most recent games, losing 12.

The overarching issue for Arsenal and Emery is a complete lack of identity, something one can certainly argue they still had even in Wenger's latter days.

While these statistics highlight how far behind the Premier League's leading pair Arsenal are, their lack of a discernible style and direction is arguably the main problem, one Emery probably will not get much more time to fix.

After all, there is little doubt they have regressed under his stewardship.

Here they are again: Liverpool and Manchester City. The Premier League's leading protagonists primed for another high-paced, highly important battle, both determined to make a statement ahead of an international break.

It is 10 months since these two previously lined up against each other in the league. Back on January 3, the Reds went into the fixture at the Etihad Stadium knowing a win would open up a double-digit lead at the summit.

Success would not have secured the crown, of course, but it would have left their rivals with substantial ground to make up and with less than half a season remaining. City knew as much too, leading to a performance full of spirit to go with their undoubted skill.

"We knew that it was a final today, if we lose it is almost over," Pep Guardiola said after a hard-fought 2-1 triumph secured by Leroy Sane’s 72nd-minute goal.

For Jurgen Klopp's side, it was a first defeat in their 21st league outing. It also turned out to be the only one, yet they still could not end the club's long, agonising wait for title number 19.

So near, yet so far.

Victory in the Champions League final helped soften the blow to a degree, but the league is undoubtedly the trophy the fanbase craves the most. Their bread and butter, as the legendary Bill Shankly once so wonderfully described it. Liverpool have been starved of it since 1990.

They have gone close on three occasions to ending the drought in the Premier League era, finishing second to Manchester United under Rafael Benitez in 2009, then missing out again five years later during Brendan Rodgers' reign, City on that occasion pipping them to the post. Those second-place finishes offered hope, albeit history shows they were false dawns in terms of climbing back on their perch.

There were reasons for the pessimists to fear the same might happen again this season, too. International commitments led to a disjointed return to club duty - Sadio Mane did not make it back until August 5, four days before the opener against Norwich City – while the transfer window was all about trimming the fat from the squad, rather than making major additions.

But, if anything, the disappointment of coming up short just a few months ago has fuelled a determination among a group of players clearly inspired by their manager.

Familiarity has not led to a lack of focus. The heavy metal football may have been toned down, yet Klopp has ingrained in them a cold, steely edge. No cause ever feels lost - just ask Barcelona from last season's European semi-final second leg, as well as Leicester City and Aston Villa more recently. These Reds have developed a ruthless, relentless streak, something that will be required if they want to stay ahead in a gruelling race.

These are the same faces, only this feels different. Fabinho was a second-half sub at the Etihad at the start of the year, a big-money signing still bedding in. Now he is a key cog, the anchor surrounded by attacking intent. There are few - if any - better than the Brazilian in the defensive midfield role across Europe. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, was not involved. He is quickly getting up to speed again after his lengthy injury lay-off, adding an alternative option to slot into the engine room. As for the defence, Klopp has the kind of options available to him that his opposite number would welcome right now.

While there is still time for tiredness amid a crowded fixture list (enjoy the Club World Cup, everybody!) to kick in, this not-new-but-still-improved Liverpool have charged out of the gate with such ferocity that City are left trying to hang on to their coattails again. The going will get tougher, but a sizeable lead would give them some much-needed breathing space.

So, with a six-point cushion and with home advantage this time around, Klopp's warriors get a chance on Sunday to do something they could not quite manage at the start of 2019.

As was the case in Manchester, this weekend’s clash at Anfield will not decide the destiny of the trophy, despite the hyperbole surrounding it. While City have shown signs of vulnerability with two defeats on their record already, it should not be forgotten that they had also lost twice just prior to the previous meeting.

On that occasion, the fine margins that can define a football game amounted to 1.12 centimetres, the distance John Stones had to spare when clearing Sadio Mane's goal-bound effort with the score at 0-0.

This time, Liverpool will hope to get across the line against City. If they do, the early front-runners will become the firm favourites, even if there are still plenty of hurdles to clear.

Virgil van Dijk claimed Liverpool do not feel fear and have no interest in holding Manchester City to a draw in their top-of-the-table Premier League encounter.

Liverpool hold a six-point advantage over title rivals and defending champions City going into Sunday's highly anticipated showdown at Anfield.

Preserving that buffer would ordinarily be seen as a reasonable outcome but the Premier League leaders will be wary of repeating the missed opportunities of last season.

Liverpool earned a stalemate on Merseyside in October then lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium as City pipped the Reds to the title.

Now, with the chance to surge further clear in first, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are not entertaining the prospect of settling for a point.

"That's something we are not going to think about, or discuss now whether a draw is good enough," star defender Van Dijk told reporters.

"We want to win every game that we play and so it is Sunday of course, and they want to win as well. So we will see.

"I have no fear. You should not have fear when you go out on the pitch. That's not something that we feel.

"We know we have the quality to win games, but we have to be more than at our best at times, and hopefully for the full 90 minutes, and try to grind out games as well.

"I think we have been doing it in some games this season."

Liverpool bounced back from last season's domestic disappointment by claiming a sixth European crown with their triumph over Tottenham in the Champions League final.

Netherlands international Van Dijk believes both events have helped forge a stronger Liverpool side.

"A lot of experience we had last year, winning the Champions League, getting so close to the Premier League, it's always going to benefit us in a good way," the centre-back said.

"Winning the Champions League can get you up in the clouds but the manager, the staff, the players have the right mentality at the moment that we want to do it again, like other teams.

"Everyone knows how difficult it is but we are just going to go for it and see where it brings us at the end of the season.

"If it doesn't bring us what we want it to be, we will just try again next year. That's the mentality we have."

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City will not feel like underdogs heading into Sunday's Premier League blockbuster against Liverpool.

City amassed 198 points over the course of their title triumphs in each of the past two seasons.

Their bid for three in a row has been compromised by Liverpool's unbeaten start this time around and Guardiola's men head to Anfield six points behind the leaders.

Goalkeeper Ederson joined influential defender Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri in the treatment room this week, but their manager insists he is not contemplating defeat on a ground where City last won in 2003.

"What does it meant to be an outsider? For the people in the media and the people outside [the club] saying you are outsider or not outsider; you are underdog or you are not underdog," Guardiola said.

"I never went into one game feeling like an outsider or feeling I am not going to win the game. I never felt it. Never.

"But, of course, the position is six points ahead and they are playing fantastic all season and in previous seasons. We have many problems in some departments of the players.

"I am not going to take a bus on Sunday to Anfield thinking I am going to lose the game. I never have in my career.

"Always I have to think that, if we do some special things we have planned to do, we have the chance to win."

Asked whether City would need their best performance of the season to prevail, Guardiola agreed.

"We know it. To win these kinds of games you have to be at the top level, definitely. We cannot be half-half," he said.

"The way Liverpool play they demand in 90 minutes an incredible attention to all the details.

"I am pretty sure that if there is a chance to win in Anfield it is when you believe you are going to win the game.

"The only chance we have is to play like we are and try to create chances to score goals. That is the only way I believe we can do it – not just in Anfield but in all the stadiums around the world."

City had only 51 per cent possession during the corresponding fixture last season, with Riyad Mahrez's late penalty miss meaning the game finished goalless.

That is an unusually low number for a Guardiola side, with similar statistics returning as the Premier League champions won the Community Shield on penalties in August, when Liverpool had 52.8 per cent of the ball.

"It is not adapting, it is because they are good," Guardiola said, having also flagged up a 3-0 win over Jurgen Klopp during their respective spells at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, when the former Barcelona boss was forced to adopt a direct, counter-attacking approach.

"Normally in my career at the clubs I was at, all the time we control the possession. We believe when you have the ball you can create more and concede less.

"When that happened [having less possession] it's the same [reason]. Dortmund in that period was a good team and Liverpool is a good team. In the way they play they have the quality to do that."

There is no doubt Claudio Bravo has the full backing of his manager ahead of Manchester City's clash with Liverpool.

"Why should I doubt any player in my team? Why do you ask these questions?" a spiky Pep Guardiola said on Friday.

"It's a team game and sometimes you make a mistake; sometimes you make a good save and sometimes not. But why should I not have any confidence with one player in my team? He wouldn't be here otherwise."

It was a staunch defence of a player whose errors in his first season in England were highly scrutinised, before he then lost his place to £35million man Ederson.

Bravo came on against Atalanta after Ederson sustained an injury, but his outing only lasted 36 minutes until a rash run from goal ended in a red card.

Still, with Ederson not fit to start at Anfield, Guardiola will be turning to Bravo again on Sunday. He insists he has no doubts about the former Barcelona man, who was the hero in the Community Shield penalty shoot-out win over Liverpool in August. But should he?

EDERSON IS STILL THE SHOT-STOPPING SUPREMO...

Exploring what might be called the basic elements of goalkeeping, there is little to argue against Ederson having the edge over Bravo.

The Brazilian has made 85 Premier League appearances, keeping 41 clean sheets – almost one every two games. Bravo, in 24 games, has managed six shut-outs, or one in four.

Ederson, of course, has been playing behind a stronger defence than Bravo did in 2016-17, when he made all but three of those appearances. Dig deeper, though, and the numbers are still not on Bravo's side.

The Chile international has faced 64 Premier League shots on target, saving 37 of them, giving him a save percentage of 57.8. Ederson, with 145 saves from 202 shots on target faced, is at 71.8 per cent.

 

...AND HE IS DEFYING EXPECTATIONS

Going further, Ederson outperforms Bravo when it comes to Expected Goals on Target Conceded (xGOT) – Opta's measure of the quality of a chance created by a team, and therefore a good indicator of how many goals a keeper can reasonably be expected to have conceded.

Excluding own goals, Ederson has conceded 57 times in the Premier League, with an xGOT rating of 62.9. Bravo, who has conceded 27 times, has an xGOT of 19.9.

In other words, Ederson should realistically have conceded six more goals than he has in England's top flight, given the quality of chances his opponents created. As for Bravo, he has let in seven more goals than he should. 

 

KLOPP'S RIGHT – EDERSON CHANGES HOW CITY PLAY

Speaking to Sky Sports, Klopp said this week: "If he wouldn't play then [City's game plan] would change, because Ederson is an important part of their game, 100 per cent. Bravo can do similar things, but exactly the same? Nobody can do [that]. That's how it is."

Although he didn't specify what makes Ederson so crucial to City, it's reasonable to assume Klopp was referring to his sweeper-keeper tendencies. And he has a point.

Ederson is a critical part of City's possession play. He boasts a passing accuracy of 84.7 per cent, and he has completed 26.2 per cent of all passes ending in the final third – a hugely important ploy when it comes to escaping the Liverpool press.

He also has a massive 'keeper sweeper' accuracy of 95.1 per cent. Opta defines a keeper sweeper as any time that a goalkeeper rushes out at least to the edge of his area, under some pressure from an opposing forward racing to the ball, in which he reacts quickly and reads the play.

As for Bravo, his passing accuracy is down at 74 per cent, with his 'keeper sweeper' accuracy at 79.3 per cent. As for those long passes into the last third, he has completed only one in 10. Klopp does not need telling that those are significant drops.

To give Bravo his due, though, perhaps Guardiola is right not to be worried about the risk of mistakes, at least. Bravo has only twice committed an error leading to a shot or goal in the Premier League. Ederson has done so nine times.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne says he is "not too scared" about first-choice goalkeeper Ederson missing Sunday's huge clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool.

The Brazil international was taken off at half-time of City's 1-1 Champions League draw with Atalanta on Wednesday at San Siro with a muscular problem.

Substitute keeper Claudio Bravo was later sent off, leaving full-back Kyle Walker to take over in goal for the closing minutes.

City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed at Friday's pre-match media conference that Ederson will not be fit to play this weekend but De Bruyne is confident Bravo can step in and fill the void.

"It's obviously a blow because he's our first-choice goalkeeper but I have confidence in Claudio also," the Belgium international told BBC's Football Focus.

"I think he had a wonderful pre-season and played against Liverpool in the Community Shield and did really well. He's an experienced keeper so I have all the confidence that he can do a good job. I'm not too scared about that."

City are six points behind leaders Liverpool, having suffered surprise defeats to Norwich City and Wolves already this campaign, while Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten in the league.

City have failed to win at Anfield since 2003 but De Bruyne says they have every intention of leaving Merseyside with all three points.

"We always go to win; that's how we are built to play," he added. "It's our mentality in the team."

Asked if it was City's biggest game of the season so far, De Bruyne responded: "Probably, but people will obviously make this bigger than it eventually can be. Obviously at this moment in the year, it is a big game, but it is not all telling for me."

A win for Liverpool would give them a nine-point advantage over City at the Premier League summit – a gap some believe would be too big for Guardiola's side to bridge.

De Bruyne, however, says it will be too early to predict the outcome of the title race, regardless of Sunday's result.

"You can only talk about the importance of the game after the season is over," he told Sky Sports. "This game is too early. If it was in April, that would give another incentive to it but even if we win, draw or lose, I would still feel confident because there is still so long.

"If you lose, you know there is going to be a big gap, but we have to take it as it is, compete, and see what happens.

"We could take any reaction after the game, like saying our season is over if we lose, but there are so many circumstances that could go on.

"Maybe they [Liverpool] drop some points and we win lots of games and we end up being on top in March or April, then people will say this game didn't even matter."

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho is not convinced the top-of-the-table clash with Manchester City will define the Premier League title race.

European champions Liverpool can take a commanding nine-point lead at the summit with victory in Sunday's match-anticipated match at Anfield.

The clubs played out a goalless draw in this exact fixture last season before City prevailed 2-1 in January's return encounter, eroding Liverpool's hard-earned advantage back to four points.

Pep Guardiola's men ultimately pipped the Reds to the title by a point but Brazil international Fabinho does not view those missed chances as being decisive.

"I don't think the outcome last season was based on the results against Man City," Fabinho told the Liverpool website.

"But if we beat them then we will have a large points advantage over them, which will be important for us.

"But this game is always a bit more special because we have the chance to pick up points and stop a direct rival from picking up points.

"So we're going to do all we can to win, but I'm not sure if this result will define the outcome of the season."

Barbs have been traded ahead of the latest instalment of this burgeoning rivalry, with Jurgen Klopp highlighting City's propensity for "tactical fouls" after Guardiola accused Reds star Sadio Mane of diving.

Nevertheless, Klopp affirmed his admiration of Guardiola in his pre-match news conference and Fabinho holds an equal level of respect for what the Premier League champions have built under the Catalan.

"We've played against this City team before and they've shown us what they're about," the former Monaco star said.

"They're great with the ball and they are hard-working, they're great in attack and all of this makes them one of the best teams in Europe today.

"But in the Premier League there are so many good teams and we've managed to play well in these situations as well. So playing City will be another challenge, but I think we're ready for it."

In the past six meetings between Manchester City and Liverpool in major competitions Pep Guardiola used notably different tactical setups on each occasion.

Defensive problems with a 3-5-2 despite a 5-0 win over the 10-man Reds in September 2017 prompted a switch to his tried and trusted 4-3-3 as City swept all before them on the way to a 100-point haul and Premier League glory in 2017-18.

Well, almost all. Liverpool won a thriller 4-3 on Merseyside in the January of that campaign – persuading Guardiola to select a diamond midfield for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final three months later.

That didn't work either, as City were ransacked 3-0 and were unable to turn the tie around despite an all-or-nothing 3-1-4-2 line-up tearing into the return leg at the Etihad Stadium with gusto.

Last season it was out with the cavalier and in with control, whether that was Bernardo Silva playing in a deeper central midfield position during a 0-0 draw in Liverpool or Aymeric Laporte playing on the left of a defence able to pivot from a four to a three in a gripping 2-1 triumph in Manchester.

City will search for a first Anfield win in 16-and-a-half years on Sunday, with Liverpool's six-point lead at the top of the Premier League table compromising their ambitions of a third straight title.

Ederson this week joined an injury list featuring Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko, meaning an even taller order for Guardiola against the most persistently challenging adversary of his coaching career.

Here, we look at how Guardiola might approach his latest crack at the Klopp conundrum.

4-4-2, 1-4-4-1 – Guardiola's 2019-20 shape experiments

During August's Community Shield encounter against Liverpool, where a typically tight game went City's way on penalties after a 1-1 draw, Guardiola debuted a tweak to his 4-3-3. One of the attacking midfielders – in this instance Kevin De Bruyne – would press high and close to the centre forward, forming a 4-4-2 shape without the ball.

Ostensibly, this ploy has been designed for an aging David Silva to be able to press in a more economical fashion. The master playmaker is likely to miss out at Anfield with a muscular injury, however, and namesake Bernardo seemed a good fit for the role during the first half against Atalanta.

The Portugal international's positioning allowed him to play an astute pass to create Raheem Sterling's opener after the goalscorer won back possession with an interception.

Expect to see more of that when the hosts have the ball, while a new configuration when building play from the back might be used to try and neutralise Liverpool's formidable press.

Ederson's supreme ability with the ball at his feet is simply not replicated by Claudio Bravo, despite the Camp Nou credentials of the man who will deputise for City's injured Brazil international.

This will undoubtedly compromise the construction of the visitors' attacks on Sunday, meaning Fernandinho's accelerated progression from makeshift to mainstay at centre-back is likely to be locked in.

A notable ploy in the games against Crystal Palace away and Atalanta at home, when Guardiola paired Fernandinho with fellow defensive midfielder Rodri in the heart of defence, was one of the centre-backs moving alongside the holding midfielder when City started their build-up.

This created another passing option for the goalkeeper and deeper centre-back and amounted roughly to a 1-4-4-1 shape.

Fernandinho's superb passing range and John Stones' smooth style being suited to this approach means there is another argument for Nicolas Otamendi being the odd man out in defence, before considering his ranking alongside Bravo in the accident-prone stakes.

A time for Foden?

Ever since his maiden first-team appearance two years ago, the understandable clamour for boyhood City fan Phil Foden to feature more frequently has steadily grown.

The difference this season is a case can be made beyond romanticism and the importance of the 19-year-old's development; in certain matches and situations, City look better with Foden in the side

He dazzled for the most part when he started the 5-1 win over Atalanta, only to blot his good work with a pair of needless late bookings. That red card is a reason for Guardiola to stick with more tried and tested names, but he cited the England Under-21 star's box-to-box capabilities as the reason for his selection and frequent success against the Serie A side.

The playmaker's presence lends a dynamism to City's midfield that was notably lacking from this season's Premier League defeats to Norwich City and Wolves, and meeting Liverpool's verve and energy head on feels like a must.

Guardiola's midweek trident of Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne might well have been road tested with Anfield in mind, but throwing Foden into a high-stakes encounter – as when he scored the winner in last season's vital 1-0 victory over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium – is being given strong consideration.

"Phil Foden has a great stamina capacity, a great thing against Liverpool," a source close to Guardiola told Omnisport before David Silva's injury made Foden's path to the first XI theoretically more straightforward.

"I think City are not interested in a crazy match versus Liverpool, but to try to be in control of the ball. But finally, that [picking Foden] is the crucial decision around Pep's match plan."

 

Aguero or Jesus… or both?

Sergio Aguero has started 2019-20 in typically prolific form, scoring 13 times in 14 appearances, despite sometimes appearing to be operating shy of top gear.

At the same time, Gabriel Jesus is also enjoying a strong run of form and, given Guardiola's frequently stated admiration for the Brazil striker's high-pressing, there could be a temptation to switch his attacking spearhead.

However, as separate as it remains from what he brings in open play, Jesus' feeble penalty at San Siro will not have helped his case. Also, Aguero's pedigree in big games – even allowing for the anomaly of him never finding the net at Anfield – surely sways the argument in his favour.

Jesus' revival after an underwhelming 2018-19 came playing on the right-hand side of Brazil's attack. Guardiola has not played Aguero and Jesus together in the same 4-3-3 forward line with any frequency since the early months of 2017-18 and a bold Jesus-Aguero-Sterling frontline would certainly raise eyebrows on Merseyside.

It could also cause plenty of problems. Nevertheless, Bernardo Silva's tireless work rate to negate Andy Robertson or Riyad Mahrez looking to atone a wretched penalty miss of his own on the same ground 13 months ago remain far more likely options on Guardiola's right flank.

Omnisport's predicted Manchester City line-up to face Liverpool: Bravo; Walker, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy; Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

Alisson said Liverpool wanted to avoid a repeat of last season as he talked up the significance of Sunday's clash against Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions head to Anfield trailing Liverpool by six points through 11 games this campaign.

City claimed the title last season, finishing a point clear of Liverpool despite Jurgen Klopp's men losing just one game.

Alisson said Liverpool had no interest in experiencing that again, eager to go one better in 2019-20.

"We don't want to feel how we felt last season," the goalkeeper told The Guardian.

"Being second by just one point – and we don't know which game made us lose the title because we had a few draws where we could have done better, and we had the loss away to Man City when we could have won or drawn – means we know that we need to give everything in every game if we want to become Premier League champions.

"We want it and we will try to do it."

Liverpool have won 10 of their opening 11 Premier League games, drawing one, to open up an early lead at the top.

Alisson knows how important Sunday's encounter is as the European champions try to surge further clear.

"Last season we had a great experience, an almost perfect season," the Brazil international said. "We lost one game and that one game was against City. We know how big this game is for us.

"We know how big the game is for everyone – for them and for our fans. In the end it is just three more important points but Manchester City have been the best team in the league for the last few years so we need to give everything to win this game."

Pep Guardiola has called on Merseyside police to ensure there is no repeat of the 2018 attack on Manchester City's bus when they face off with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

City's bus was damaged when making its way to the ground for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final tie against the Reds, which Liverpool won 3-0.

This week, a poster circulated on social media in which fans were encouraged to "greet" City's coach ahead of the top-of-the-table Premier League clash.

And Guardiola urged police to make sure his team arrive without incident.

"No. Hopefully it will not happen again, so the police knew about [it] for the Champions League game before and didn't do anything," he said. 

"I don't know what they are going to do, hopefully it will be an incredible game at Anfield for the Premier League and for all around the world. 

"That is what we want. Hopefully it's not going to happen, the same that happened two seasons ago when we arrive, which was more than one bottle."

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp issued a similar message, calling on fans to provide vociferous vocal backing in the stands but not to engage in "senseless" acts.

"I'm a big believer of fan power – in the stadium. That's completely different. [The coach incident] was a senseless thing," Klopp said. 

"If somebody at Man City is concerned still, then it's our fault. Not that we did it all together, we all didn't throw the bottle or whatever it was, but it was one of us. That's why we are responsible. 

"All of us have to make sure that something like this will never happen again. It's long ago and since then nothing has happened. I don't think it was Man City specific. 

"After the punishment we got, we haven't had a similar situation – the positive outcome of something like this. 

"Actually, we used to enjoy that [the coach welcome], when we come in, it's impressive. It's a nice part of football, but if you overstep the line then it's not allowed that you do it anymore. 

"That's how it is. I wish I could say it will never happen again but unfortunately I can't. But what I can say is we will do everything that it will never happen again. 

"Everybody agrees to feel this responsibility that it won't happen again. That's why I say – go in the stadium, nothing to do outside, have your food, go in, wait for the team, we will come, let's make a pretty special game of it."

Superintendent Paul White issued a statement on Merseyside Police's official website addressing the poster doing the rounds on social media and insisted they are doing all they can to ensure there are no major incidents.

"As with any match, a comprehensive and appropriate policing operation has been put in place ahead of Sunday's game and we have liaised with both clubs and their supporter groups," he said.

"We are aware of one poster on social media regarding a bus welcome. The corresponding last fixture ran smoothly and we are working to ensure this game can be enjoyed safely by all as well as minimising any disruption to local residents and roads.

"As with all Premier League fixtures at Anfield, we will have officers on duty at the ground, both uniformed and plain clothed, supported by mobile CCTV, provided by Liverpool City Council, and specialist resources including the Dog Section, mounted police and the National Police Air Service. We will also have a city centre policing plan in place throughout the day. This is standard procedure. 

"We know that this will be a busy operation and we hope that fans attending the match will act as ambassadors for their clubs. 

"As usual we would ask fans with tickets to arrive at the ground as early as possible. Fans without tickets should not attend at all; they will not be allowed entry into the stadium."

Pep Guardiola described Anfield as the toughest stadium in the world to visit right now, but insisted Manchester City are not out of the Premier League title race if they lose to Liverpool on Sunday.

The build-up to the mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash has been dominated by talk of diving and tactical fouls, although City boss Guardiola and Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp have done their bit to ease the tension.

Last season City took four points from the Reds, a return that proved decisive as they pipped Liverpool – who lost just once in the league – to the title by a solitary point.

Guardiola described the triumph as one of the greatest of his career and recognised the difficulty of playing at a stadium where Liverpool have not lost any of their previous 45 league games.

"As a manager, I said last season when we won the league, they're the best contender I ever faced in my career to win this league," he said. 

"It was the biggest achievement, or one of the biggest achievements, as a club. It remains the same. Probably right now they're the strongest team in the world.

"They are an exceptional team. Of course, the history is there for itself. It's something special, I think more for the quality of the team of what they do, quality of players they have, quality of manager they have, I believe more in that, in the team, than the scenario [atmosphere at Liverpool]. 

"Right now it's [Anfield] one of the toughest ones, right now in Europe it’s the toughest stadiums to go there."

Unbeaten Liverpool can open up a nine-point gap over City with victory on home soil, but Guardiola insists defeat will not mean the end of their title aspirations.

"I don't know to be honest, I think in November it never ends. I think we have a lot of games still to play," he added. 

"My experience in sport is you have to play until the end, are we going to win Champions League? Your favourite question! I don't know the answer.

"They lost one game last season, this season they are unbeaten so I think they won't lose many but the season is long."

Guardiola this week sought to clarify comments he made about Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and "diving", which drew a retort from Klopp bringing up previous accusations the Catalan's teams are guilty of "tactical fouls".

But Guardiola gave a prickly reply when the issue was brought up again, saying: "I said in Italy, no comment. 

"Ask the other managers. I know exactly what I said to my players in the last 11 years about what we have to do. I know exactly."

It was put to Guardiola that his rivalry with Klopp could potentially stand up to the one between legendary Manchester United and Arsenal bosses Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But Guardiola said it is far too soon to draw such comparisons.

"Well, I will wait [to see] if my hair grows in the next 20 years because they were more than 20 years together," he said. 

"I think we cannot compare anyone with the rivals of Ferguson and Wenger. Absolute legends in their clubs, they were more than one or two decades there." 

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