Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not believe Sunday's surprise Premier League loss to Southampton highlights the need for the club to sign new players.

Guardiola's City suffered their third consecutive away defeat in the Premier League after going down 1-0 to Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday.

After routing newly crowned champions Liverpool 4-0 last time out, City – who rested Kevin De Bruyne and others – succumbed to Che Adams' first Premier League goal as they fell 23 points adrift in second position.

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Bayern Munich's David Alaba have been among the players linked with moves to City at the end of the season.

But when asked if City's defeat was a question of needing new players, Guardiola told reporters: "No, I don't think so.

"I think we play good, honestly. We play with the character and desire to drive until the end. We played against Southampton who had 10 players in the penalty area. We did it really well.

"We will review the game, and with the chances that we had, we can do more. It's difficult to create more chances than we created and the way we did it.

"I'm so proud, so I liked the way we played but it's not enough. There's no complaint about the players. We played really well, I like it but it's not enough to win the games."

Guardiola, meanwhile, does not feel City goalkeeper Ederson is to blame for the loss to Southampton.

Adams scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, catching the Brazilian keeper off his line after Oleksandr Zinchenko had been dispossessed of the ball.

"We use our keeper to build up our play. We use our keeper to play better," Guardiola said. "It gives us a lot. The mistake is part of the game but we didn't lose for that reason.

"It happens many times this season this situation. The amount of chances we have but it's football. The amount of chances we have but not able to score goals."

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Ahead of Liverpool's trip to City on Thursday, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Here, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Ederson has credited Pep Guardiola with making him a better goalkeeper and says the Manchester City boss "sees football in another way" to others.

Brazil international Ederson has spent three seasons working under the Catalan coach, playing a key part in two Premier League title successes and four domestic cup triumphs.

The 26-year-old is well known for his ability to command the box and start attacks from deep, but he was at fault for both goals in March's derby defeat to Manchester United.

However, Ederson insists that taking risks is something that is expected of him under Guardiola, who he credits for taking his game to the next level.

"The role of a goalkeeper in Pep's team is like the 11th outfield player on the pitch, in terms of the build-up, the pressing," he told Sky Sports. 

"I think it's more difficult. There is a bigger responsibility because you can't afford to make any mistakes. If you do, it probably ends in an opposition goal.

"Pep is a great manager who sees football in another way. He lives football and breathes football. The way he thinks about the game is completely different to other managers. 

"He has helped me a lot, but not only me, the rest of my team-mates too.

"You can tell he implanted a style of play in all of us and in the club, so we don't need much time to practice our football style because we have been playing it for a long time now."

Ederson has been compared to Ronald Koeman in terms of his ball-playing ability from the back, something that the former Benfica stopper believes comes naturally to him.

"I don't practice it that much, maybe two or three times a week," he said. "It's a natural skill that I have, to hit long balls, so I don't need to practice it every day.

"I think futsal helped me a lot when I was 11 or 12 years old. It helped me to think quicker and look for the passing lines. I think I managed to move those lessons to 11-a-side."

Ederson has previously suggested that he is interested in playing outfield in the future, but he does not expect that to happen during his time at the Etihad Stadium.

"When I play with my friends, I always play as a midfielder," he added. "I could do it, but not here at City. 

"We already have lots of good midfielders in the team. It's only jokes, but if one day there is an opportunity, who knows?"

Ederson apologised to Manchester City team-mate Eric Garcia for the sickening on-field collision that left the teenage defender stricken and in need of a stretcher.

Brazil goalkeeper Ederson charged from his area to avert danger late on in City's 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, with Garcia suffering what appeared to be considerable collateral damage.

The 19-year-old received lengthy treatment before being taken from the field wearing a neck brace.

Garcia was taken to hospital before being released on Thursday, with manager Pep Guardiola confirming he will now spend around 10 days on the sidelines, in line with Premier League concussion protocols.

Ederson is hopeful his young team-mate can make a speedy recovery as he prepares to face Burnley on Monday.

"I spoke to him and apologised to him for the moment," he said.

"It didn't go the way I wanted, obviously. I didn't want to clash with him.

"Unfortunately, it happened. Thank God, it was only a shock, nothing serious.

"He was [back at the training ground on Friday], he was fine. He didn't have trauma, only a cut."

While the closing stages were fraught with worries over Garcia's health, the start of the contest featured a poignant show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

All players took a knee – a now familiar sight since the Premier League's return to action – and Ederson is pleased to see such widespread support for a subject and a cause that is close to home.

"It's very important. My father is black, I have black relatives, and you can't discriminate against anyone because of the colour of their skin, their race or their religion," he said.

"We need to treat everybody the same way. It doesn't matter what the colour of your skin is. We need to treat everybody equally.

"Living with discrimination in the world in the 21st century is very complicated, it's difficult to accept and unfortunately, there are too many cases of racism happening.

"I hope with those gestures we can help to reduce the number of cases."

Pep Guardiola claims Leroy Sane was fit to make his Manchester City first-team return "weeks ago" but remains short of rhythm.

Sane suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during last August's Community Shield triumph against Liverpool, scuppering both his season and a purported switch to Bayern Munich.

The Germany winger resumed full training last month, when he featured for City's under-23 team against Arsenal.

However, he has not featured in one of Guardiola's matchday squads during a run of games that has included a Champions League trip to Real Madrid, the EFL Cup final and a Manchester derby.

"He is getting better week by week," the City manager said of Sane's fitness, while not ruling out the prospect of the 24-year-old featuring when his team host Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday.

"He is training, he is not injured. He can play. Another issue is a lack of rhythm, the tempo, the moment of the season. We are going to decide.

"But yes, he was ready weeks ago."

Guardiola again backed first-choice goalkeeper Ederson, who was culpable for both goals conceded as Manchester United claimed the local bragging rights with a 2-0 win over their neighbours at Old Trafford on Sunday.

"He's an extraordinary keeper. You and me [the reporter], we cannot make mistakes because we are sitting," he said. "The players can make mistakes wherever they want. It is how they react and he always reacts good."

Guardiola confirmed he has remained in regular contact with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, his former assistant who left City to take charge of the Gunners in December.

Raheem Sterling previously cited Arteta's nurturing influence as a factor in his improvement over recent seasons but Guardiola doubts the England forward's ongoing 12-match goal drought can be attributed to the ex-Everton midfielder no longer being part of the Premier League champions' coaching staff.

"You have to ask Raheem," he said. "Raheem has scored goals and is going to score goals. The talent is there.

"Of course, Mikel helped all of us as much as possible. Not just Raheem, all the players.

"My assistant coaches are free to do what they think to help the team. We try to do our best for the club we defend, and the people we work with, to do as well as possible on the pitch."

Influential duo Kevin De Bruyne (shoulder) and Aymeric Laporte (hamstring) will be assessed ahead of the Arsenal game after their absences were keenly felt last weekend.

Ilkay Gundogan insists it was wrong to award the free-kick that led to Manchester United's opening goal in the derby and has accused Bruno Fernandes of play-acting.

City midfielder Gundogan was penalised when he prodded the ball away from Fernandes while making minimal contact with the United star 29 minutes into the match at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side took the lead from the resulting set-piece, Fernandes chipping a clever pass that Anthony Martial volleyed past Ederson.

United withstood City pressure in the second half before Scott McTominay pounced on another Ederson error to secure a 2-0 victory in second-half injury time.

"There was frustration about the free-kick before the goal," Gundogan admitted. "It was not a foul at all. I just touched the ball and he goes on the floor shouting.

"I don't even know if the referee saw it or just had a feeling that it was a foul. That was very disappointing for me, to be honest, because I was involved in the action and conceding the goal straight afterwards hurt very much. We tried hard after conceding the first one but it just wasn't enough."

Gundogan refused to pin blame for the defeat onto Ederson, who also nearly allowed Martial to score a second with uncharacteristically careless control.

"Eddy has been crucial in so many games for us, and he is allowed to make mistakes. Unfortunately, this time they were punished, very crucially for us," he said.

"We win together and lose together. That's why we play football; that's why we're a team. He will deal with that situation very well. He's angry, disappointed and frustrated, but it's always about how you get out of it. He has all of our support and I'm sure he will do much better in the next games."

City could not match United's intensity in the first half and were short on creativity in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, managing only four shots on target throughout.

"It hurts a lot," said Gundogan. "Not really the result but that we didn't play our best game, especially creating in the last third. This game is always big, one of the biggest derbies in the world. That's why we wanted to perform and play well.

"United were much more aggressive, especially after scoring the first goal. They tried to press very high for 10 minutes afterwards. Missing Kevin is crucial in these kind of games.

"But we still have some very important games, big games. We play Arsenal now and Burnley. Then obviously a vital game against [Real] Madrid at home [in the Champions League] and another crucial game in the FA Cup.

"So we still have the possibility to win silverware. We will try to achieve that and do better than we did on Sunday."

Pep Guardiola backed Ederson as an exceptional goalkeeper after the Brazil international's errors led to Manchester City's 2-0 derby defeat at Manchester United.

Following a period of early control from City, Anthony Martial's volley squirmed through Ederson's grasp to give United an advantage they did not relinquish in the face of second-half pressure.

Ederson also lackadaisically missed his touch to almost allow Martial a second, and his ill-advised throw as the visitors chased an equaliser allowed Scott McTominay to seal the points in stoppage time.

"He saved one or two, so… he is an exceptional goalkeeper," Guardiola told Sky Sports after suffering a third defeat to his local rivals this term.

"I'm not here to come to judge my players if they make mistakes. It's part of the game.

"He will recover and he is an exceptional goalkeeper."

City remain 25 points shy of champions-elect Liverpool and still comfortably ensconced in the top four - a fact in itself that remains somewhat academic as their two-season ban from UEFA competition awaits an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This season's Champions League remains a live ambition, with a 2-1 advantage held over Real Madrid before a return last-16 encounter at the Etihad Stadium later this month, while City travel to Newcastle United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after already winning a third EFL Cup in succession.

Despite this cup-heavy feel to the season run-in, Guardiola baulked at the suggestion his team lacked motivation or underperformed in their Premier League assignment at Old Trafford.

"We played so good. Even when we win 5-0, we can play better," he added.

"The schedule we know. Liverpool are far away and we have to play the game for ourselves. Today we did it."

Two costly mistakes from Ederson handed Manchester United a derby victory over Manchester City on Sunday to put Liverpool on the brink of a first Premier League title.

Anthony Martial fired the Red Devils ahead in the first half with a shot that City's goalkeeper should probably have kept out at his near post.

United survived some heavy second-half pressure until Scott McTominay scored an injury-time second after Ederson's throw went straight to his feet.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, beaten at home by City in their past three league meetings and the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, claimed a top-flight double over their city rivals for the first time since 2009-10 to leave the champions' title defence hanging by a thread.

Pep Guardiola's first league loss at Old Trafford brought an end to City's five-game winning run in all competitions, as United boosted their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Claudio Bravo will start for Manchester City in the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, with manager Pep Guardiola showing faith in Ederson's Premier League understudy for the Wembley clash.

City boss Guardiola has used 36-year-old Bravo as his goalkeeper in domestic cup competitions this season.

And the former Barcelona boss vowed he would stand by that policy for the March 1 trophy match.

The confirmation from Guardiola is sure to be warmly welcomed by Chilean Bravo, whose Premier League opportunities have been minimal since Ederson arrived at the club ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Bravo spent almost 12 months out of action because of a ruptured Achilles sustained in August 2018, so the Wembley outing will emphasise his City re-emergence and Guardiola's trust in his ability.

The ex-Barca and Real Sociedad keeper was still sidelined when City reached last season's EFL Cup final, and on that occasion Guardiola picked Ederson ahead of young Aro Muric, who had played in the earlier rounds.

"Last season I changed Ederson from Aro because we played against Chelsea," Guardiola said. "Chelsea have incredible high pressing and we needed to play for the build-up a little bit quicker and faster and better.

"And Edy was better in that moment than the young keeper Aro. Aro helped us a lot, I spoke to him before the final. But if Claudio is fit, he is going to play."

Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling were named among the subs and Ederson left out of the squad entirely due to illness for Manchester City's home Premier League clash with Everton.

City's leading goalscorer Aguero was on target for the 14th time across all competitions this season against Sheffield United last time out, while Sterling lasted 88 minutes of Sunday's 2-0 victory.

Both players were omitted from the starting line-up for the New Year's Day clash with Everton, however, as Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus came in.

Kyle Walker, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Bernardo Silva also made way, replaced by Joao Cancelo, Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan, as Pep Guardiola opted for five alterations.

Ederson was eligible for selection after serving a one-match ban for his dismissal against Wolves last week, but Guardiola confirmed he has been laid low by a sickness bug, meaning Claudio Bravo retained his place.

Everton, who boast a perfect record from their first two matches under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, also made five changes for their trip to Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola is adamant Manchester City will not prioritise cup competitions over the Premier League for the rest of the season because he worries about them missing out on European places.

City are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool thanks to Friday's 3-2 defeat at Wolves, meaning their title defence looks beyond Guardiola's men.

Although Ederson's early red card left City in a precious position at Molineux, they found themselves two to the good just after the interval thanks to a pair of Raheem Sterling goals.

But Adama Traore pulled one back soon after and he then played a vital role in an 82nd-minute equaliser, making the most of Benjamin Mendy's woeful error to set up Raul Jimenez.

The Mexican teed up Matt Doherty late on and he secured the win that leaves City well adrift of Liverpool, who also have a game in hand.

But giving up on the Premier League is a dangerous game Guardiola is unwilling to play.

"We can't give up otherwise we won't be in Europe," Guardiola told reporters.

"I never prioritise competitions. Now we're back at home, playing another game in less than 40 hours [at home to Sheffield United]. We have to prepare, see how they are and how they feel.

"Our response is always good; we are used to being top and now we are fighting."

Friday's result meant Manchester City were unable to move back up to second above Leicester City, who lost 4-0 to Liverpool on Boxing Day.

And Guardiola reiterated that they are now City's target, acknowledging it is not realistic to continue aiming for Liverpool's lofty perch.

"We have to move on," he said. "We played the first season and we were there [near the top] all the time, in some situations we are far away. We have to catch the second one and see where we are.

"It's unrealistic to think about Liverpool, we think about Leicester. We have the chance to recover second, I know the quality of the team, but that's the situation."

Bernardo Silva acknowledged Manchester City's 14-point gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool is a "really bad situation" after Friday's dramatic 3-2 defeat to Wolves.

Liverpool – who have a game in hand on City – thrashed Leicester City 4-0 on Thursday to increase their lead at the top and Pep Guardiola's men were unable to make a dent in that at Molineux.

Despite having Ederson sent off in the 12th minute, City found themselves two up early in the second half thanks to a Raheem Sterling brace.

But Adama Traore inspired Wolves, scoring from 25 yards before setting up Raul Jimenez's equaliser in the 82nd minute – picking the Mexican out after capitalising on a woeful Benjamin Mendy error.

Matt Doherty clinched the win following a clever interchange with Jimenez, and Silva accepts City's position is frustrating.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, he said: "It is a really bad situation for us. A frustrating first half of the season.

"Nobody expected us to be this far away from Liverpool at this halfway point. We have to continue now.

"We know that winning the title is very complicated. I wouldn't say impossible but very difficult."

Guardiola's post-match comments struck a similarly exasperated tone as he practically ruled out a title challenge.

"It's big [the gap behind Liverpool] for a long time now," he said. "It's not realistic to think about it. The same question for a long time, but the same answer."

Manchester City blew a two-goal lead at Wolves as Raul Jimenez and Matt Doherty netted late on at Molineux to secure a thrilling 3-2 home victory, with the 10-man champions' hopes of usurping runaway leaders Liverpool taking another huge blow.

City found themselves with an unlikely 2-0 lead just after half-time thanks to a Raheem Sterling brace, the lead remarkable given the 12th-minute dismissal of Ederson, but Wolves fought back spectacularly in the second half – Adama Traore playing a vital role.

Ederson's early sending off left City in a tricky position, though they initially responded well and went ahead through Sterling – the attacker tapping in a penalty rebound after Rui Patricio had saved two of his spot-kicks, the first ultimately being retaken due to encroachment.

Sterling doubled his tally with a lovely finish early in the second half and it looked as though it would be enough, but the lively Traore pulled one back before then setting up Jimenez in the latter stages following a woeful error from Benjamin Mendy.

There was still time for a stunning winner as Doherty finished off a fine move in style in the 89th minute to clinch the win, leaving City – who hit the crossbar through Sterling in stoppage time – 14 points adrift of Liverpool.

A A gripping first half looked to be going Wolves' way when Ederson was dismissed for catching Diogo Jota after rushing out of his box in the 12th minute, with Sergio Aguero's return from a month-long injury absence ending prematurely as he was hooked for replacement goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

But Riyad Mahrez was tripped by Leander Dendoncker in the opposing penalty area soon after and, following a lengthy VAR review, the spot-kick was given.

Sterling's subsequent effort was stopped by Patricio, only for VAR to penalise Wolves following encroachment from Conor Coady. The retake brought about another save, but this time the England forward converted the rebound.

City managed to reach half-time with their lead intact and Sterling got his second just after the interval, racing on to Kevin De Bruyne's throughball and beating Patricio with a clever chip.

But Sterling gave possession away a few minutes later and Traore capitalised, sending a 25-yard drive crashing in off the left-hand post.

Mendy was the next City player to make a costly error, trying to shepherd the ball out of play only to be out-muscled by Traore, who teed up Jimenez to steer home.

And Doherty completed the turnaround with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box following a clever interchange with Jimenez – Sterling's last-gasp free-kick causing a brief moment of worry as it clipped the bar.

Manchester City blew a two-goal lead at Wolves as Raul Jimenez and Matt Doherty netted late on at Molineux to secure a thrilling 3-2 home victory, with the 10-man champions' hopes of usurping runaway leaders Liverpool taking another huge blow.

City found themselves with an unlikely 2-0 lead just after half-time thanks to a Raheem Sterling brace, the lead remarkable given the 12th-minute dismissal of Ederson, but Wolves fought back spectacularly in the second half – Adama Traore playing a vital role.

Ederson's early sending off left City in a tricky position, though they initially responded well and went ahead through Sterling – the attacker tapping in a penalty rebound after Rui Patricio had saved two of his spot-kicks, the first ultimately being retaken due to encroachment.

Sterling doubled his tally with a lovely finish early in the second half and it looked as though it would be enough, but the lively Traore pulled one back before then setting up Jimenez in the latter stages following a woeful error from Benjamin Mendy.

There was still time for a stunning winner as Doherty finished off a fine move in style in the 89th minute to clinch the win, leaving City – who hit the crossbar through Sterling in stoppage time – 14 points adrift of Liverpool.

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