Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City players they must thrive under the pressure being put on them by Liverpool as they fight to retain their Premier League crown.
City cruised to a 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday which was more comfortable than the suggested scoreline, but needed the three points after Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Watford at lunchtime had sent Jurgen Klopp’s side temporarily top of the table.
Liverpool have now won 10 in a row in the league, briefly overturning what had been a 13-point deficit to City in January and, with the two teams due to face each other at the Etihad Stadium next Sunday, Guardiola knows there is no room for error.
“There are eight games left, 24 (points),” he said. “We have to feel the pressure. Every game, if we lose, we are not going to win (the title), simple as that.
“Hopefully Liverpool are going to lose against us, apart from that I don’t think they will drop points.
“We have to feel the pressure, we have to handle it. What we did in the past, when we won 14 games in a row, now we have to win eight, otherwise we will not be champions.”
Saturday’s match turned into a stroll for City after Kevin De Bruyne marked his 200th Premier League appearance for the club with a fifth-minute goal and Ilkay Gundogan doubled the advantage midway through the first half, with Raheem Sterling setting up both.
The England man missed a chance to score himself late in the first half, then saw substitute Gabriel Jesus fire over from another cross in the second half to deny him a hat-trick of assists.
That could be Guardiola’s only complaint as City eased back into gear following the international break, going into a huge week which sees the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, then the visit of Liverpool next Sunday.
“At the beginning of the second half we had two or three clear chances to score the third and kill the game and maybe try to score more for the goal difference against Liverpool,” Guardiola added.
“But after the international break it’s always uncertain how the players come back. Now we go to the Champions League. It’s a dream to be there and we prepare for Atletico Madrid.”
Burnley have now lost their last 10 meetings against City by an aggregate score of 34 goals to one.
As such, this fixture was not one by which to measure their chances of pulling off a great escape as the threat of relegation grows ever stronger, but they must now prepare for a huge week of their own – with struggling Everton the visitors on Wednesday before they head to rock-bottom Norwich next weekend.
There was a fear around Turf Moor that the score could get out of hand given how early City made their mark, but a Burnley defense which included Kevin Long making his first appearance of the season in the absence of Ben Mee and Nathan Collins avoided further damage .
“When they score two early things can change,” Clarets boss Sean Dyche said. “But Kevin Long stepped in, it’s not an easy game to do that, and I thought he did fine so there were some positives out of a tough afternoon.
“It’s always difficult to measure against these. They’re a top side, a top manager, and put together for hundreds of millions of pounds. You can beat them, we have beaten teams like that but it’s very, very difficult.
“That doesn’t mean we park it, but this does get parked now. We’ve got 10 games to go, they’re all important games, and they’re all not against Man City.”