Liverpool, United Kingdom | AFP | Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City to underline their intention to make history this season when the runaway Premier League leaders travel to Liverpool on Sunday.
Guardiola’s side have turned the title race into a lengthy coronation party after powering 15 points clear of second placed Manchester United and 18 ahead of fourth placed Liverpool.
Barring an epic collapse, City will spend the rest of the season focused on the historic implications of their remarkable campaign.
If unbeaten City can leave Anfield unscathed, they will have only 15 more matches in which to avoid defeat as they aim to emulate the achievements of Arsenal in 2003-04 and Preston in 1888-89, who both went an entire top-flight season without losing.
“Of course if you want to achieve something that’s good and win titles you have to win these kind of games,” Guardiola said.
“This season at Stamford Bridge we were able to do that but still we have to go to Anfield, to Emirates and against Tottenham.
“We still have tough teams away, there is still a lot of things to do. For us it’s a real test, going to Anfield, one of the most prestigious stadiums and teams in the world so we’ll try to put on a good performance, it’s a big game for us.
“Liverpool is such an important game, to realise again if we are able to do big things in this season, in important stages, in the Champions League.”
Becoming England’s third top-flight “invincibles” isn’t the only milestone fuelling City’s charge.
There have only been five longer unbeaten streaks in the top flight than City’s current run of 30 matches.
– Anfield woe –
Arsenal’s 49 games in 2003-2004 is currently top, followed by Nottingham Forest’s 42 in 1977-1978, Chelsea with 40 in 2004-2005, Leeds’s 34 in 1968-1969 and Liverpool’s 31 in 1987-1988.
City, still in the hunt for four trophies this term, could also become the first team to win a top-flight match at Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the same season since Wimbledon in 1986-87.
But to do that City must end their wretched run at Anfield, where they are without a win since 2003, a run of 16 matches in all competitions.
Asked about City’s Anfield curse, Guardiola said: “I don’t believe in these kind of things, but of course the last time City won was 15 years ago, so it means a lot in terms of how difficult and complicated it is to play there. But records are always there to be broken.”
Since losing to Tottenham on October 22, Liverpool are unbeaten in 17 matches in all competitions and 13 in the league, their best run under Jurgen Klopp.
Their 5-0 thrashing at City earlier in the season was Klopp’s heaviest defeat in all competitions as Reds boss, and his joint-heaviest ever managerial loss.
City’s visit will provide evidence of whether Liverpool can cope without Philippe Coutinho following the Brazil forward’s sale to Barcelona.
While Coutinho’s departure brought the curtain down on his role in Liverpool’s attacking ‘Fab four’, Klopp’s three remaining big hitters will ensure the Reds pose a major threat to City’s unbeaten record.
Crucially for Liverpool’s chances of derailing the leaders, Egypt winger Mohamed Salah, who missed the last two matches with a groin problem, is fit and available for selection.
“It’s interesting to play against City. They play really good and if you don’t respect that, you have a problem,” Klopp said.
“But if you are not brave in your game, you will also have a problem. You need to show up.”