Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola claims he has never gone into a football match expecting to lose and will not be changing the habit of a lifetime at Anfield on Sunday.
Guardiola’s confidence is well earned having spent the majority of his playing and coaching career at the top of the tree, with trophy-laden spells at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.
If his optimism were ever going to be tested this weekend’s visit to Merseyside could be the time – the Reds are six points clear at the top of the table, City have won just once in the past 38 years at the ground and an injury to goalkeeper Ederson has capped a series of fitness issues among Guardiola’s first XI.
But the 48-year-old was in strident mood as he put the finishing touches to preparations for a match that could have big implications on the Premier League title race.
“What does it mean to be an outsider? I’ve never gone into a game feeling like an outsider and feeling like I’m not going to win,” he said.
“I never felt that. Of course, they’re in a position six points ahead and they are playing fantastic all season and we have many [injury] problems in some departments, but I’m not going to take the bus to Anfield on Sunday thinking I’m going to lose the game.
“That has never happened in my career. Always I had the feeling that if we do the special things we plan to do we will have our chance to win.”
Guardiola’s self-belief stops well short of hubris, with the Catalonian remaining realistic enough to know the margins are small for his side. If they are to inflict Liverpool’s first defeat in 29 league games, particularly with Claudio Bravo in for Ederson and question marks lingering over David Silva and Rodri, they will need to put their best foot forward.
“To win these kind of games you have to be at the top level. Definitely. We know it,” he said.
“We can’t be half and half. The way they play they demand incredible attention in all the details for 95 minutes. We know that. But that is the point. I’m pretty sure that if there’s a chance to win at Anfield it’s when you believe you’re going to win the game.
“If you just think ‘Let’s see what happens’ against that team there I think it’s not possible. The only chance we have is if we play like we are and try to create chances to score goals. That’s the only way I believe we can do it, not just at Anfield but all the stadiums around the world.”
Guardiola admits he cannot offer any magic bullet to explain away City’s dire record at Anfield, with a Nicolas Anelka inspired 2-1 win in 2003 their only successful trip since 1981.
He did come close to halting the trend last term, denied only by Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss in a 0-0 draw.
“No, I cannot explain it. I can only explain my periods here when we play there. Last season we were in the last minute to win and missed the penalty. Sometimes it happens.
“When you see the statistics, I don’t believe much in these sorts of things, but 38 years for one (win), it shows how difficult it is at Anfield. Statistics are okay but it is a game, it’s about 94 minutes, 95, 96 and what you have to do to beat them.”
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