Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City will have to win all their remaining five games to pip Liverpool and retain the Premier League title.
City briefly took top spot on Sunday afternoon following a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace, until the Reds went back to the summit by beating Chelsea.
It means City remain two points behind but, crucially, they have a game in hand, and Guardiola believes they cannot afford a single slip-up during the run-in.
“We think Liverpool are going to win all their games, but the Premier League position is in our hands,” he said.
“We have to win every game if we want to make back-to-back titles. We know that, and the players have shown they want to do it, and I didn’t have any doubts about that.”
Selhurst Park has been a graveyard for title campaigns in the recent past, notably when Liverpool’s wheels came off in 2014 and City suffered a similar fate a year later.
But Raheem Sterling’s double and a late third from Gabriel Jesus, after Luka Milivojevic gave Palace brief hope with a free-kick, kept City’s bid to retain their crown firmly on track.
“I’m so pleased,” added Guardiola. “The amount of games we have had – Brighton, and three days later the Champions League, and now here, and the way we played for 75 or 80 minutes was really good.
“In two seasons we’ve got 83 points with five games left. Incredible numbers and it shows how consistent we are.”
Palace boss Roy Hodgson has no doubt they can pull off an unprecedented four-timer.
“I think they look in very good shape,” he said. “They came here with a fully-fit squad and they paid us the respect of putting a very strong team out. That doesn’t make the task any easier.
“I can only say what everyone else knows. They are a very good team and will take some beating in any competition they play.”
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Sadio Mane’s header early in the second half was followed moments later by a goal-of-the-season contender from Mohamed Salah and, after two uncharacteristic misses by Eden Hazard, the Reds regained the top spot they had lost 90 minutes earlier to Manchester City.
Salah’s goal was worthy of winning a title let alone a game, but for now Liverpool will settle for the latter.
A two-point lead over City, winners at Crystal Palace, was restored and proved Jurgen Klopp’s previous assertion that no-one is getting rid of his side in this most enthralling of races.
Here’s a look at how the players rated.
Alisson Becker 7 – Always seemed to be in the right place to alleviate danger and made himself big in the key moments.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 7 – Composed defensively and delivered some dangerous crosses and set-pieces.
Joel Matip 6 – Had a few awkward moments against Eden Hazard but stood up well.
Virgil Van Dijk 7 – Judged the game well and held firm under pressure.
Andrew Robertson 6 – Got forward when he could and linked well with Naby Keita.
Naby Keita 6 – Positive performance, getting back to win possession and drive forward.
Jordan Henderson 7 – Made his presence felt and pushed forward until being forced off injured.
Fabinho 7 – Made some strong challenges as Liverpool sought midfield control.
Mohamed Salah 8 – Looked lively throughout and scored a stunning goal.
Roberto Firmino 7 – Linked well with his fellow forwards in and around the box and had a good chance himself.
Sadio Mane 8 – Was in the right place to open the scoring while he kept Chelsea’s defence on their toes with his movement on and off the ball and his crossing.
Georginio Wijnaldum 6 – Enabled Liverpool to take the sting out of the game just as Chelsea were starting to threaten.
James Milner 6 – Brought his usual assurance in the latter stages.
Xherdan Shaqiri 5 – Made only a late entrance.
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Chelsea couldn’t produce a repeat of their 2014 title-derailing win at Anfield as a second-half burst from Liverpool saw Maurizio Sarri’s fall 2-0 in a pivotal result for the Premier League title and top four races.
Sadio Mane’s header early in the second half was followed moments later by a goal-of-the-season contender from Mohamed Salah and, after two uncharacteristic misses by Eden Hazard, the Reds regained the top spot they had lost 90 minutes earlier to Manchester City, while Chelsea’s grip on a top-four spot weakened.
The Blues have a two-point lead over fifth-place Manchester United, who have a game in hand, and a three-point gap to sixth-place Arsenal, who have played two fewer games than Chelsea.
Here’s a look at how Sarri’s side rated.
Kepa Arrizabalaga 6 – Made some notable saves but was caught out for Mane’s opener and could do nothing about Salah’s strike.
Cesar Azpilicueta 6 – Had his difficulties dealing with Mane.
Antonio Rudiger 5 – Resolute in the early stages but was unable to shake off an injury and was replaced before half-time.
David Luiz 6 – Made a vital block from Henderson and also did well to prevent a Salah breakaway.
Emerson 6 – Had been reading the game well until Liverpool twice raided his flank for goals in quick succession in the second half.
Jorginho 6 – Made some important challenges.
N’Golo Kante 7 – A typical high-energy performance in which the Frenchman covered a lot of ground.
Willian 7 – Made some dangerous runs and was a recurring threat on the break but he blasted a good chance wide.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek 6 – Was forceful through the middle but Van Dijk limited his impact.
Callum Hudson-Odoi 5 – Got into some good attacking positions early on but was unable to get into the game after that.
Eden Hazard 7 – Was effective in the deep-lying false nine position, dropping deep and surging forward but his luck was out on this occasion.
Eden Hazard: Has missed two clear-cut goalscoring chances in a Premier League match for the first time since December 2017 (vs Newcastle)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 14, 2019
Full player statistics -- https://t.co/uLO9OOWM31 pic.twitter.com/AfvZcQVVIs
Andreas Christensen 5 – Was given some difficulties in the latter stages as Liverpool finished confidently.
Gonzalo Higuain 6 – Did not give Chelsea the extra attacking impetus they needed.
Ross Barkley 6 – Former Everton player was booed on entry and did not force his way into the game.
*Copy provided by Press Association Sport