Pep Guardiola does not appear overly concerned by the prospect of Liverpool shattering Manchester City's Premier League benchmarks, saying: "Records are there to be broken".

City have won the Premier League under Guardiola in the past two seasons and, while they were pushed all the way by Liverpool last term, the 2017-18 success was similar to the Reds' current tilt in its dominance.

Guardiola's side finished on a record 100 points, yet Liverpool have dropped only two points all season and look on course to surpass that total, while also troubling Arsenal's 49-match unbeaten run from 2003-04.

Asked about the prospect of Liverpool claiming such records ahead of City's FA Cup tie against Fulham, Guardiola said: "Yes, it can happen.

"Records are there to be broken. We broke it when someone said we couldn't, and sooner or later it will be broken again. History speaks clearly about that.

"To beat Liverpool? It is not easy. They have found a way to win games."

City welcomed back Aymeric Laporte for the first time since his August knee injury in midweek, playing 78 minutes against Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Guardiola is delighted to be able to call on his star centre-back once more but again stated Laporte will not fix all of City's problems.

"He was good [against Sheffield United]," Guardiola said. "He played a little bit more than 70 minutes for the first game.

"He played well, but he is not going to solve all the problems that we have. He is one more player that we have, and if we believe can use him, we will use him.

"He's a guy who helps us to do our build-up easier, and when that happens, we lose less balls, we concede fewer counter-attacks and that's why we are more stable. Basically it is that.

"He is a guy who is strong in the air, is fast, and has a special personality. His attributes help us to become a better team."

Guardiola, who said City would not be training abroad during the upcoming mid-season break, preferring to stay at home, confirmed winger Leroy Sane is now the club's only injury absence.

The return of Laporte would appear to see teenage defenders Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis moved further down the pecking order, but Guardiola does not anticipate either player going out on loan.

"It is impossible, Eric Garcia is not going to move," he said. "Harwood-Bellis, we didn't speak about that, but no. I think he is going to stay until the end of the season.

"Maybe we need him for the second team. I don't know if he has offers. If there came an offer from the Premier League, maybe we could consider it for his development as a player."

Manchester United have been fined £20,000 by the Football Association for failing to control their players during the 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

Having gone ahead in the 14th minute through Virgil van Dijk's header, Liverpool thought they had a second when Roberto Firmino curled home soon after.

However, the goal was subsequently disallowed following a VAR check, with Van Dijk having been deemed to foul United goalkeeper David de Gea prior to Firmino's strike.

Referee Craig Pawson did not initially blow up for a foul, with United's players - including goalkeeper De Gea, who received a booking - gathering around the official to protest prior to the video review.

The FA has now taken action against United after finding them guilty of a breach of rule E20(a).

"Manchester United FC has been fined £20,000 after admitting a breach of FA Rule E20 and accepting the standard penalty," read a statement.

"The club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 26th minute of a Premier League fixture against Liverpool FC on 19 January 2020."

Jurgen Klopp revealed he forgot how big Liverpool's lead atop the Premier League was ahead of their win over Wolves on Thursday.

An 84th-minute goal from Roberto Firmino saw Liverpool edge Wolves 2-1, restoring their 16-point lead at the top.

But Klopp said his side's busy schedule meant he needed reminding just how big their advantage was in the lead up to the clash.

"When was the pressure higher on us, this year or last year? Human beings are like this. I don't think about it," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"I had to ask exactly how many points clear we are, that's the truth. I really forgot it in the week, with the number of games, I didn't think about it.

"I know we play Sunday against Shrewsbury and Wednesday West Ham and I know we play Saturday. That's three games in seven days, that's a lot.

"I know we lost Sadio Mane [to a hamstring injury], that's what I think about, that's the pressure I have. All the rest is not pressure.

"We want to win football games and when I arrived here a few years ago we wanted to win football games. That's the pressure [and] yes, I feel that. Apart from that, nothing, it's just football."

Liverpool were tested by Wolves, who drew level in the second half as Raul Jimenez cancelled out Jordan Henderson's eighth-minute opener.

But Firmino's late goal saw Liverpool to a 22nd win in 23 league games and Klopp lauded his side's response.

"We don't go for perfection, we go for a perfect reaction if possible, that's what we try to do, that we really fight back in difficult situations in the game," he said.

"That's what the boys did again and so, we won the game, which is really unbelievable."

Liverpool visit Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Liverpool's march towards the Premier League title shows no sign of slowing down, as the Reds claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wolves.

Manchester United are clinging to a top-six position after they slid to a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley, the latest in a string of wretched results this season that have sparked an angry reaction from supporters.

While United toil, neighbours Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Sheffield United that continued their resurgent league form, with a winning combination delivering the goal for Pep Guardiola's side.

Leicester City might have expected a challenge from the big clubs behind them by now, but the Foxes continue to sit pretty in third place, and a 4-1 win over West Ham continued to make them look immovable from the top four this season.

The midweek Opta data offers detailed insights into the stories behind those results, revealing a string of telling trends and match facts.

 

MANE INJURY DOES NOT DERAIL LIVERPOOL'S CHARGE

Liverpool lost Sadio Mane to injury during the first half in Thursday's clash with Wolves, yet Roberto Firmino struck late on to claim the win as the Reds became just the fifth side in English Football League history to go 40 straight matches unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp's side have amassed 67 points from a possible 69 in the Premier League this season; this is at least five more than any side in English top-flight history has ever previously had after as many games of a campaign.

Raul Jimenez drew Wolves level after Jordan Henderson's opener, and the Mexican's header ended a run of 725 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal for Liverpool since Richarlison scored for Everton at Anfield in December.

Jimenez also became the third Premier League player to net 20+ goals in all competitions this season, after Sergio Aguero (21) and Raheem Sterling (20).

Since the start of last season, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has assisted 22 Premier League goals, at least five more than any other player, with 10 of those coming from dead balls, also a league-high.

Firmino, meanwhile, has scored six goals in his last eight games for Liverpool in all competitions, as many as he had in his previous 32 appearances for the club, and all of his 10 Premier League strikes this season have come away from home.

UNITED IN TURMOIL AS CLARETS PUT NEGATIVE SPIN ON OLE REIN

Manchester United may sit fifth, but in terms of points tallies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's are closer to 14th-placed Newcastle than they are to fourth-placed Chelsea after 24 games.

The league standing is highly vulnerable, given Tottenham, Wolves and even Sheffield United are breathing down United's necks.

Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Burnley means United now have a negative Premier League win-loss record since manager Solskjaer was given the job on a full-time basis in March.

They had impressed during his caretaker spell, but since Solskjaer went from being a stand-in to the chosen one, their record shows 11 wins and 12 defeats in the Premier League.

United's Old Trafford setback followed their 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, meaning they have suffered back-to-back league defeats for the second time under their Norwegian boss.

Burnley looked to be in freefall just days ago and relegation was becoming a serious concern, but wins over United and Leicester City have lifted them to 30 points - just four adrift of the Red Devils.

PASSPORTS AT THE READY, LEICESTER LOOK BOOKED IN FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURN

Catch them if you can! Leicester City had a wobble with defeats to Southampton and Burnley, but Brendan Rodgers' men now sit 14 points clear of fifth place and surely their destiny is a second season in the Champions League.

In the absence of anything approaching a charge from teams outside the top four, it would take a spectacular collapse for the Foxes to miss out, with a 4-1 win over West Ham on Wednesday emphasising their quality.

Leicester have racked up eight wins in 12 Premier League home games so far, their best record at this stage of a season, and the 52 goals they have banged in amounts to their most in the top flight from their first 24 games since the achieved the same tally in 1930-31.

Rodgers and West Ham boss David Moyes were once rivals on Merseyside, in charge of Liverpool and Everton respectively.

While Rodgers eyes success towards the top of the table, Moyes has taken on a relegation battle with a West Ham side who are outside the bottom three on goal difference alone.

Since the start of October 2019, no team have gained fewer points (11) or lost more games (11) in the Premier League than West Ham, and it gets no easier: Liverpool are their next opponents.

At least that game is a home fixture for the Hammers. Moyes' away record in matches against teams starting the day in the Premier League top four is diabolical, winning just one of 50 such games.

KEVIN KEEN TO HELP - DE BRUYNE IS KING OF THE ASSISTS

When Sergio Aguero turned in a cross from Kevin De Bruyne to give Manchester City a 1-0 victory at Sheffield United, it was more than merely two Premier League greats combining to deadly effect.

History, in fact, was made in that motion, with De Bruyne becoming the first player in the Premier League era to provide 15 or more assists in three different seasons.

The Belgian had 18 in 2016-17, 16 the following season, and after an injury-wracked 2018-19 campaign he already has 15 from 23 appearances this term.

The scale of De Bruyne's achievement can be better appreciated by considering the likes of Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas, Dennis Bergkamp and his own City colleague David Silva have been unable to produce at that level so consistently.

Former Wolfsburg playmaker De Bruyne has entered the top 20 of all-time assist providers in the Premier League, and there is no keeping Aguero down either.

Aguero has been directly involved in 43 goals in 43 Premier League appearances against newly promoted teams - scoring 35 goals and assisting in eight more.

It took City until the 73rd minute to make their breakthrough at Bramall Lane, and a lot of the credit for the hosts' resilience went to goalkeeper Dean Henderson, whose first-half penalty save from Gabriel Jesus means he has stopped four of the last eight spot-kicks he has faced in English league football.

Sadio Mane has a hamstring injury but Liverpool do not yet know the extent of the problem, manager Jurgen Klopp said.

The Senegal star went off in the first half of the Premier League leaders' 2-1 victory at Wolves on Thursday.

Mane pulled up when running for a Mohamed Salah pass and was replaced by Takumi Minamino 33 minutes in.

Klopp hopes the injury is not serious but will wait until further checks can be carried out on Friday.

"Sadio, it's a real shame he had to go off," he told BBC Sport. "Hopefully, it's not too bad, just a muscle tweak, but we will see tomorrow."

Klopp added in a news conference: "He felt something in the hamstring. We don't know yet; we have to wait."

Jordan Henderson's opener was cancelled out by Raul Jimenez and Wolves looked to be heading for what would have been a deserved point before Roberto Firmino struck in the 84th minute.

Klopp accepted his side were not at their best, with Wolves' goal particularly frustrating, but he was delighted with Firmino's clinical composure.

"We scored a wonderful goal, we had wonderful possession but the set-up from Wolves is so good - yes, it's counter-attacking, but it's about being well in possession, using the width of the pitch," he said.

"The goal from a counter-attack doesn't make sense when you're one-nil up, but okay.

"We changed the system two or three times, we calmed it down. We had incredible chances in the first half and then at the end it was a magic moment from Bobby.

"The boys are human. It was a little bit up and down. We had a discussion on the pitch, there was stuff to improve but set-pieces can bring us back in the game, a good bit of skill can bring us back in the game. Wolves were really strong but it's clear we could settle again.

"You just have to find a way to win and have someone who makes the perfect decision and that was Bobby again."

Liverpool moved 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League after Roberto Firmino struck a late winner in a 2-1 defeat of Wolves at Molineux.

The Brazil striker's 10th goal of the season in all competitions six minutes from time was enough to seal a 22nd win from 23 league games this season for Jurgen Klopp's runaway leaders.

There was something of a setback for the visitors, though, who lost Sadio Mane to injury in the first half.

Jurgen Klopp's side had gone 725 minutes without conceding a goal in the top flight, stretching back to the 5-2 win over Everton in December, until Raul Jimenez cancelled out Jordan Henderson's opener.

It looked as though Wolves would be heading for what would have been a deserved point until Firmino fired home from inside the box, as Liverpool stretched their unbeaten league run to 40 matches.

Sadio Mane went off injured in the first half of the Premier League clash between Wolves and Liverpool at Molineux.

The Senegal star pulled up after running to meet a Mohamed Salah backheel around 32 minutes into the game.

Mane immediately signalled to the Liverpool bench that he needed to come off and he was replaced soon after by recent arrival Takumi Minamino.

It was unclear what the problem was with Mane, although it appeared to be muscular as he made his way down the tunnel.

Any long-term problem for Mane would be a blow to Jurgen Klopp, the forward having scored 11 and assisted a further six goals in the league this season.

The Reds were 1-0 up at the time of the injury, Jordan Henderson having broken the deadlock with a header from Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner.

Virgil van Dijk, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the headline inclusions in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week, which contains a plethora of superstars.

Liverpool defender Van Dijk played a vital role as Liverpool beat bitter rivals Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday, scoring the opening goal and producing a generally commanding display at centre-back.

Paris Saint-Germain talent Mbappe leads the line following his brace against former employers Monaco in last week's 4-1 win, taking his Ligue 1 goal tally to 13 for the season.

The Frenchman is joined in attack by Haaland, who enjoyed a stunning debut for Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland came on in the 56th minute with Dortmund 3-1 down, but he went on to score a hat-trick and inspire a turnaround which saw Lucien Favre's side win 5-3 at Augsburg.

That trio are by no means the only big-name players with new in-form cards set to be available – below, we have the full squad.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Nick Pope (Burnley) – 82

RB: Damian Suarez (Getafe) – 82

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 81

CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – 92

CM: Lucas Leiva (Lazio) – 86

CM: Casemiro (Real Madrid) – 88

CDM: Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich) – 88

CM: Sergio Canales (Real Betis) – 87

ST: Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – 85

ST: Kylian Mbappe (PSG) – 92

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Matheus (Sporting Braga) – 81

CB: Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United) – 81

RM: Edin Visca (Istanbul Basaksehir) – 86

CAM: Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge) – 83

LM: Ante Rebic (Milan) – 83

ST: Michael Gregoritsch (Schalke) – 82

ST: Jhon Cordoba (Cologne) – 81

RESERVES

CB: Esteban Burgos (Eibar) – 78

RM: Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United) – 72

ST: Alexander Sorloth (Trabzonspor) – 79

ST: Ante Budimir (Real Mallorca) – 79

ST: Ernesto Torregrossa (Brescia) – 78

Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool have "no intention" of letting Xherdan Shaqiri leave the club this month.

Switzerland international Shaqiri has been the subject of reported interest from Serie A side Roma and LaLiga outfit Sevilla, with the Reds thought to have already dismissed approaches for the 28-year-old.

The forward has made only six Premier League appearances this term, starting just twice, having played in 24 top-flight games in his first season at Anfield.

Yet as the Reds bid to seal a first league title in three decades and defend their Champions League crown, Klopp stressed the club do not want to offload any player this month.

"The majority of December and January we had the bench full of kids, wonderful kids, but kids, so how could we think about giving people to anyone?" Klopp said at a news conference to preview Liverpool's clash with Wolves on Thursday.

"It's not about Shaq, it's about everyone. We have to keep them for sorting our situation, not the situation for different clubs.

"If somebody would come around the corner and ask properly...but that didn't happen.

"[If] they are desperate then we think but there's absolutely no intention from our side to do anything."

Klopp's unbeaten side made it 21 wins from 22 in the Premier League on Sunday with a 2-0 triumph over Manchester United, the only side to have taken points off them in the division this term.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first player Klopp brought off in that game just after the hour mark and the midfielder reacted angrily when he came to the bench having been replaced by Adam Lallana.

The 26-year-old also appeared peeved when he came off against Tottenham in Liverpool's previous game, with the England international yet to complete 90 minutes since returning from an ankle problem earlier this month.

However, Klopp said there is no issue with the reaction of his player, who he has spoken to regarding his apparent anger at being replaced.

"He's not [frustrated], he just looks like this," Klopp added.

"I asked him. It's all fine. It's normal a player wants to play 90 minutes. We have to learn from our own past. Oxlade is an unbelievably important player. Players get tired, they show up again like this.

"I try to read the players during the game and try to understand in which moment they are energy-level wise and make a decision. Maybe with Oxlade I was a bit too early but he got a knock on top of that. He was limping a little.

"If a midfielder is limping you start looking in more detail. In one or two defensive situations if a midfielder is not in the way he should be it has an impact. We have to make a decision.

"Maybe after the game it didn't feel that bad any more with the knock. That's good. It's all okay, we have good options to make substitutions."

Liverpool may be 13 points clear of reigning Premier League champions Manchester City with two games in hand, but Kyle Walker is not giving up hope of a third successive title.

City secured a 1-0 win over Walker's former club Sheffield United on Tuesday night, cutting the gap on leaders Liverpool, who will extend their advantage to a whopping 19 points with wins at Wolves and West Ham over the next week.

Klopp's unbeaten side have only dropped two points across their 22 games this season and it would require an unprecedented and monumental collapse for them not to be crowned top-flight champions for the first time in three decades.

However, Walker insists he will only accept that fact when it has been realised, and he hopes City can retain the other trophies they won in last season's domestic treble too.

"I'm not going to say it [the title race] is over," he said.

"I'm a professional, this is the job I love to do and I'll keep fighting until mathematically it's over.

"It's going to be a tough job, we know that.

"We are alive in all cups, so hopefully we can get some silverware at the end of the season.

"Last year we won the EFL Cup and the FA Cup, so hopefully we can retain the titles as well."

Walker made his 18th Premier League start of the season at Bramall Lane, where substitute Sergio Aguero's second-half strike downed the Blades.

Despite the loss, Chris Wilder's side have had a fantastic campaign so far following promotion from the Championship last season and they sit seventh in the table, above Tottenham and Arsenal.

Sheffield-born Walker, who came through the Blades' academy before making his senior debut with the club, is delighted to see his old team faring so well.

"I have played against them a few times with different clubs, but it's good to have finally met them in the Premier League," Walker added.

"I wanted to get to the Premier League with my hometown club but it didn't happen.

"I think Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job and they have been outstanding this season."

Manchester United have lined up another exciting midfield transfer target amid their ongoing pursuit of Bruno Fernandes.

As the wrangling over figures with Sporting CP continues, the Red Devils have reportedly submitted a sizeable offer to Birmingham City for teenage talent Jude Bellingham.

But making the first move might only spark a European bidding war.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SUBMIT BELLINGHAM BID

Birmingham youngster Bellingham's clear potential has convinced United to launch an offer worth more than £30million, reports the Sun and Sky Sports.

The 16-year-old midfielder has burst onto the scene this season and the Old Trafford outfit are understood to be keen to test him in the Premier League.

However, they could face stiff competition from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and other heavyweight clubs across the continent.

The Mirror, meanwhile, claims United have made a "breakthrough" in negotiations for Portugal international Fernandes, having reached a "compromise" transfer fee in the region of £55m.

 

ROUND-UP

- David Beckham's Inter Miami have contacted Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero to assess his interest in a switch to MLS, adds the Sun.

- Tottenham have enquired about Real Madrid winger and former Spurs star Gareth Bale, according to Spanish television programme El Chiringuito.

- Barcelona, still searching for a new striker, have ruled out RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and Lille's Victor Osimhen, suggests Mundo Deportivo, with Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno a more likely target.

- Serie A side Roma are set to discuss personal terms with Matteo Politano after agreeing a €25million fee with Inter, according to Sky Sport Italia.

- Inter, meanwhile, are said to be in discussions with United youngster Tahith Chong, who is also on Chinese outfit Jiangsu Suning's radar as his contract runs close to expiring, says Sky Sport Italia.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is interesting Premier League champions City and Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, reports SportMediaset.

Dejan Lovren returned to training with Liverpool on Tuesday after six weeks on the sidelines and said he felt "happy to be back".

The 30-year-old defender suffered a muscle injury in the final Champions League group game against Salzburg on December 10, with that blow compounding the loss of Joel Matip as manager Jurgen Klopp's resources were stretched.

Matip was back in full training last week, though, after recovering from the knee problem he suffered in October, and now he and Lovren will be targeting a first-team return with the Premier League leaders.

Lovren and Matip have played a part at the back for Liverpool during their so-far highly successful season, with the Reds' rearguard marshalled by Virgil van Dijk.

Joe Gomez has started at centre-back alongside Van Dijk in recent Premier League games, with Croatian Lovren and Cameroon international Matip facing a battle to earn favour from Klopp ahead of the England defender.

Lovren posted a series of pictures on Instagram of himself in training on Tuesday, with the caption: "Happy to be back with the team."

Liverpool face Wolves at Molineux on Thursday in their next league fixture.

Manchester United have been charged by the Football Association (FA) for failing to control their players during their 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

Having gone ahead in the 14th minute through Virgil van Dijk's header, Liverpool thought they had a second when Roberto Firmino curled home soon after.

However, the goal was subsequently disallowed following a VAR check, with Van Dijk having been deemed to foul United goalkeeper David De Gea prior to Firmino's strike.

Referee Craig Pawson did not initially blow up for a foul, with United's players - including goalkeeper De Gea, who received a booking - gathering around the official to protest prior to the video review.

The FA have now taken action against United, charging the club with a breach of FA Rule E20(a).

"It is alleged that the club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 26th minute of the Premier League fixture against Liverpool on Sunday," read a statement on the official FA Spokesperson twitter account.

United have been given until Thursday to respond to the charge.

Kylian Mbappe has reiterated his commitment to Paris Saint-Germain amid renewed links to Real Madrid, while the France forward described Liverpool as "like a machine".

Mbappe has become one of the world's best strikers since joining PSG from Monaco in 2017, scoring 81 goals in all competitions in his two-and-a-half seasons at the club so far.

Before signing for PSG, Mbappe was heavily linked with LaLiga giants Madrid, and speculation of a move to Santiago Bernabeu has never died down.

However, the 21-year-old insists he has no plans to leave PSG just yet, adding it is not beneficial to the club or his development for a possible switch to Madrid to be continuously discussed.

"Everyone talks about it - when I was young I talked about it too. But now I'm a player and I know it's not the moment," Mbappe, speaking at the launch of his charity "Inspired by Kylian Mbappe (IBKM)" told BBC Sport.

"We are in January - it's the money time of the season. Imagine I answer your question and say something. Everybody will talk about it and it's not good for PSG.

"Now I'm with PSG and I'm 100 per cent with the club. I want to help the club grow this season, to win a lot of titles, so for me it's not good to talk about [my future].

"I think about the club because the club helped me. I came here at 18. I was a talent but I was not a superstar. Now I'm a superstar, thanks to PSG and the French national team.

"I have to stay calm and stay focused on PSG. After that, at the end of the season, we will see. But now I'm focused on my game."

Liverpool have also been linked with making a move for Mbappe to add to their fearsome attack, though Jurgen Klopp has previously said the forward is out of the club's financial reach.

Mbappe, however, has been in awe of Liverpool's form this term, as the Reds storm towards the Premier League title.

"What Liverpool do in this moment is amazing," Mbappe said of the defending European champions. "They're like a machine, they've found a rhythm and are like 'we play again, we play again'.

"They've lost zero games. When you watch you think everything's easy but that's not easy. The guys are focused, they play games every three days and they win, they win, they win.

"Now the problem is that everybody watches Liverpool, and everybody watches what we can do against them, so now they have to show they are strong again but it's a very good team with a very good manager."

Pep Guardiola concedes Liverpool are "extraordinary", but he is more focused on improving Manchester City than worrying about how they stack up against the runaway Premier League leaders.

City have won the title in the past two seasons under Guardiola yet now trail Liverpool, who have a game in hand, by 16 points.

The Reds have dropped just two points in the top flight, but City manager Guardiola would prefer to focus on how the defending champions can raise their game.

"In terms of what we are as a team, we are open, we accept," he told a news conference before facing Sheffield United on Tuesday.

"We cannot deny it - the Liverpool team is extraordinary in terms of football, in terms of results.

"But every day I live almost 24 hours thinking about my team and what we are, what we are doing, what we can do better. I'm not too much distracted by other teams in other leagues or, in this case, Liverpool."

City have scored more league goals than any other team in the division this season, yet they have also conceded more than Sheffield United and last Saturday's opponents Crystal Palace, who claimed a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium.

"We concede few, but the opponents score goals from a few chances," Guardiola said. "That is difficult to solve. We have to improve in this area.

"We have scored I don't know how many more goals than Liverpool [12], so our way is good. I don't have the statistics here, but I don't think we concede more chances in one game. From the few, we concede goals that we shouldn't and drop points.

"You start from Tottenham in the first game, they shoot twice in the half on target and score two goals. Norwich shoot three times and score three goals.

"When this happens, it's difficult to fight against this Liverpool. We have to improve in this area."

Guardiola revealed John Stones and Benjamin Mendy had knocks following the weekend draw, although he was not yet sure if the issues would keep them out against the Blades.

The Spaniard felt criticism of Stones after the Palace game, in which he appeared to struggle against Wilfried Zaha, was harsh.

"It was unfair, yeah," he said. "We are there, I am there. Ups and downs in the career, the football manager always has to be strong. We know his quality."

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