Pep Guardiola made clear James Milner should have been sent off during Manchester City's 2-2 draw with Liverpool, adding how his side may not have been so lucky in the same situation.

Having already received a booking in the first half, Milner escaped a second yellow card when he appeared to foul Bernardo Silva.

The incident occurred in the second half with the score at 1-1 and, not long after the reprieve, Liverpool's right-back, filling in for the absent Trent Alexander-Arnold, was involved in his side's second goal, scored by Mohamed Salah.

While Kevin De Bruyne scored an equaliser to make sure the Premier League champions claimed a point, Guardiola was in no doubt referee Paul Tierney had erred in not dismissing Milner.

"It's a yellow card," the City boss, who argued his case to fourth official Mike Dean during a game in which he also received a yellow card, told Sky Sports.

"But it's Anfield, like it's Old Trafford. In this situation, for City and it's our player he is sent off, 100 per cent.

"It's too clear. There are interpretations some time, but it was a second yellow card."

Milner had also been involved in a major incident in the first half too, appearing to clip Phil Foden as he moved into the penalty area. No foul was given then either, while the former City player was eventually replaced by Joe Gomez in the 78th minute.

City were on top in the first 45 minutes and while unable to maintain their dominance, Guardiola was delighted with how his team played, particularly coming after tough games against Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

"I know how difficult it is, against these players, this manager. I'm a big fan of Jurgen, every time it's a big challenge for us," Guardiola said.

"But the way we played, especially at Stamford Bridge, the way we played in Paris and then today again, in these three games we show we are a great team.

"We lose the way we played in Paris, then today, okay we didn't lose, but we draw — it is good.

"It's impossible that players like Salah, Mane, Firmino and Jota don't take chances. It's impossible. The first half they didn't have one chance, for the second half we spoke about how it was going to be different.

"But how we reacted in every circumstance, when suffering, was brilliant."

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged it was a tale of two contrasting halves for Liverpool after they fought out a pulsating 2-2 draw with Manchester City at Anfield.

City, the reigning Premier League champions, were the dominant team before the break, Phil Foden twice denied by Alisson while Kevin De Bruyne wastefully headed over.

Pep Guardiola's side had a strong claim for a penalty when Foden was clipped by James Milner, but some half-time words from their manager helped Liverpool finally come alive after the interval.

The home team twice went ahead, Sadio Mane opening the scoring before Mohamed Salah's wonderful solo strike made it 2-1, but Klopp felt a point was "completely fine" after City pegged them back on each occasion.

"Thank god a football game has two halves. We are really happy about the second and not so happy about the first, for obvious reasons," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"We did a lot of things wrong in the first half and City did a lot of things right, that result we could see. We never got really into the game, never played enough football. 

"I was really happy, perhaps I was the most happy in my career about the half-time whistle. It was never planned that we played like this.

"We needed half-time and we used half-time, then played a really good second half."

He added: "Man City with the ball is a proper team. There are ways to defend it – you have to close down the spaces, and to do that you have to step out in specific moments.

"I'm not sure I've seen many games where City can pass so easily through the half spaces. They had chances, but they didn't score from that.

"We had long balls, which didn't make sense. All these things we changed in the second half immediately. You could see how we set up – we were higher, more aggressive.

"The message was to play the extra pass, which we didn't do that in the first half at all. I'm really happy. Do we want to win a game like this? Yes. But we have to admit today, because the game has two halves, the point is completely fine."

Foden cancelled out Mane's goal and while Salah put Liverpool back ahead, ending a glorious run with a right-footed strike from a tight angle, Kevin De Bruyne levelled matters again, his attempt getting beyond Alisson after taking a deflection off Joel Matip.

Liverpool appeared set to go back ahead once again when Fabinho was presented with an empty net, only for Rodri to make a crucial block with goalkeeper Ederson out of position.

"I think the biggest chance we didn't take. I have to see it back, but I've no idea how he blocked the ball. For me the ball was in," Klopp continued.

"For our first goal, top passing, top movement. Goal number two, individual quality which you only see when you're really lucky.

"If Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo scores that goal, the whole world says, yes, because they are world-class. Mo Salah scores that goal, it's because he's world-class.

"He's one of the best players in the world, that's how it is."

In the past four seasons, only Manchester City and Liverpool have won the Premier League title. In the past four seasons, only City and Liverpool have even come close.

For all the talk of a 'big four', including European champions Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United, leaving Arsenal and Tottenham behind, these are the two teams to beat. When they meet, it tends to be special. Sunday's 2-2 draw was no different.

James Milner may not wish to watch the game back, though. For the same reasons, Pep Guardiola is unlikely to reflect fondly on a point that leaves City third, a point behind Liverpool and two shy of Chelsea.

The champions trailed twice but will feel they should have ended an 84-year wait for consecutive league victories against Liverpool, having won at Anfield last season for the first time in 18 attempts.

It was little wonder City players were bent double even before the full-time whistle was blown, this game coming at the end of a brutal week that took in trips to Stamford Bridge and Paris Saint-Germain's Parc des Princes before another Anfield epic. On top for much of all three matches, Guardiola's men might have taken nine points from nine across the Premier League and Champions League but instead had to settle for four.

Without a striker signing, the lack of a ruthless touch in the final third was in evidence again on Merseyside, in stark contrast to Liverpool and Mohamed Salah, as the Reds — and Milner, in particular — were somehow allowed to escape a punishing first half unscathed.

A pair of Alisson errors in last season's meeting had teed up City's 4-1 win, but the goalkeeper played a key role in keeping his side in the game this time.

City had briefly hinted at an alternative approach to last week's relentless pressing of Chelsea — which included a season-high 17 pressed sequences — this time allowing 46.5 per cent of the action to play out in their own third in the first five minutes as Liverpool initially took control.

But the visitors, with one notable exception, soon found their feet and exposed Liverpool's obvious flaw: Milner.

Phil Foden had started through the centre at Chelsea but moved to the left, trading with Jack Grealish, and thoroughly enjoyed himself up against makeshift right-back Milner, whose woeful start was only matched by fellow stalwart Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool captain completed only 50 per cent of his first-half passes and gave up possession with 46.7 per cent of his touches.

Henderson epitomised Liverpool's first 45 minutes, but Milner was the real victim of his inability to keep the ball.

When Bernardo Silva pounced on a slack touch in the middle of the pitch, beat Henderson twice, did the same to Andy Robertson and then squeezed between Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, leaving the latter in a tangle, he spotted Foden racing in behind Milner. Out came Alisson for a vital save.

Again and again, Foden ran at Milner. An apparent foul on the border of the box went unpunished, then the England man swung over a deep cross to find a team-mate unmarked in front of goal. Unfortunately for City, it was Kevin De Bruyne, the one man uncharacteristically matching Henderson's mishaps stride for stride. De Bruyne stooped and headed over, one of four attempts before the break, none of which hit the target.

Next, Foden was successful in drawing a foul from Milner and a yellow card. The veteran midfielder did not learn and was caught out by an outrageous Ederson pass that required Alisson to advance again, reading Foden's intentions as he attempted to round the goalkeeper.

Jurgen Klopp rushed down the tunnel at half-time but did not rush to make changes. Out came the same team again, Milner up against Foden again.

Crucially, however, Liverpool were able to keep the ball away from the versatile forward for a time and instead focused their attention on moving in the opposite direction down the same flank. Joao Cancelo may be a more natural full-back, but he also looked uncomfortable against Salah.

So it proved just before the hour, when Salah skipped past his opponent and suddenly had City on the back foot for the first time. They had faced only two shots to that point, but Salah's pass found Sadio Mane with space beyond Ruben Dias and able to steer in a scarcely deserved opener.

That should have given Liverpool the belief to go after Guardiola's men again, and City certainly wobbled for a time, but the introduction of Raheem Sterling for Grealish — at odds with Klopp's unerring faith in his first XI — gave the Reds something new to think about and distracted from Foden, who subsequently found space again and rifled in a superb leveller with Milner unable to recover.

Milner did not last much longer, but he should have been sent off before he was subbed off. It was at this point that Guardiola's frustration boiled over. With his side in the ascendancy, Silva's dancing feet beat Milner and he was brought down. The former City man inexplicably evaded a second card and, with Guardiola fuming on the touchline, gesturing towards fourth official Mike Dean, slumping in his chair and then hopping up to remove his jacket, Klopp quickly made plans to replace his ailing man.

Inevitably, Joe Gomez was still waiting to come on when Milner won a throw-in deep in City territory and Liverpool built another attack. Curtis Jones fed Salah, who turned away from Cancelo, left Silva on his backside and danced past Aymeric Laporte to lash in from a tight angle. The predictable response from those of a City persuasion prompted bookings for both Guardiola and Silva.

Yet Foden had stolen the show in this fixture last term and was not about to be undone. Unperturbed by Gomez's presence in place of Milner, he created space for a cutback that rolled away from Kyle Walker but not De Bruyne, this time a little more accurate but still benefiting from a deflection en route to the net.

There was still time for a remarkable Rodri block as Salah's cross gave Fabinho an open goal, but the apparent promise of another twist faded as legs became heavy. The international break would do these players the world of good if not for their national team commitments.

Sloppy in the first half, sublime in the second, Liverpool and City showed both why they are the best around and how they can be beaten. Whether anyone else in the league can stay with them long enough to get a good look at those weaknesses is another matter.

While Liverpool floundered last year and City the season before, this rivalry remains on a knife-edge. The return fixture could yet prove pivotal.

Manchester City twice rallied to secure a 2-2 draw against Liverpool after a pulsating encounter between the previous two Premier League champions at Anfield.

Kevin De Bruyne's left-footed shot pegged back the Reds for a second time after a sensational solo Mohamed Salah effort had put Liverpool ahead again, the Egyptian holding off Joao Cancelo before moving beyond Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte to rifle in a right-footed drive from a tight angle.

Uncharacteristically passive in the first 45 minutes despite playing towards the Kop, Liverpool went ahead when Sadio Mane slotted home Salah's throughball, only for Phil Foden to respond for City.

Fabinho appeared set to put the Reds ahead once again only for a brilliant Rodri block to prevent him from slotting into an unguarded net, meaning a point apiece for both teams.

All the drama after the break was in stark contrast to a first half that saw City dominant. Foden was twice denied by Alisson and also felt he should have been awarded a penalty when clipped by James Milner, who was then fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for a foul after the break.

The closest Liverpool went to scoring in the first 45 minutes came when a Ruben Dias back pass nearly caught out Ederson, but Jurgen Klopp's half-time words worked a treat as the hosts came alive after the interval.

Diogo Jota finally tested Ederson before Salah's run and throughball allowed Mane to slot home his 99th Premier League goal.

Foden’s response was emphatic, his left-footed strike flashing beyond Alisson, yet Salah appeared to have landed a knockout blow in the heavyweight battle with a glorious run and finish.

City, however, climbed off the canvas to make sure they avoided a knockout defeat, the scorecard finishing level thanks to De Bruyne, whose first-time attempt from the centre of the penalty area clipped Joel Matip on the way in.

Jordan Henderson believes it is Manchester City who set the standards in the Premier League and Liverpool will have to keep up with Pep Guardiola's men if they are to stand of chance of winning back the title.

Liverpool welcome City to Anfield on Sunday in what Henderson feels is undoubtedly the biggest match of the season so far for Jurgen Klopp's men.

The Reds can return to the summit with a win after Chelsea knocked them off top spot by beating Southampton 3-1 on Saturday.

Historically Liverpool boast a good record against City, having not lost consecutive home games against them since 1937 and losing just one of their past 18 meetings at Anfield.

But that solitary defeat came via a 4-1 thrashing in February as City cruised to the title, and although Liverpool are on the longest unbeaten run (16) in the top four tiers of English football, City's quality is not lost on Henderson

Writing in his programme notes, Henderson said: "There's no doubt that this game is our biggest of the season so far. The Premier League table tells us this, recent history and the aims of the two clubs tells us this.

"As an opponent, Manchester City are as strong as they come and we welcome them to Anfield in the knowledge that having got a great result at Chelsea last weekend they will be looking for another one today.

"City's record under Pep Guardiola speaks for itself. From a Liverpool perspective, they set the standards that we had to live up to before we could become champions and any team which wants to win the league this season will know that their chances of doing so will be maximised if they finish above City.

"They are the reigning champions and someone will have to take their crown because City won't be handing it over."

Henderson then turned his attention to talk of "respect", which could possibly be seen as a veiled message to supporters after Guardiola pleaded for Liverpool fans to not attack the City bus, eager to avoid a situation similar to that prior to their Champions League clash in 2018.

"There is a lot of talk about the rivalry between our two clubs, but for the most part this is built on respect and competition," he added. "You can't slug it out as we have in recent seasons and not have a rivalry, that wouldn't make sense.

"But by the same token, if you go toe-to-toe with a team like City it would be ridiculous if you didn't recognise their quality and respect them for it.

"Yes, there will be headlines, stories and flashpoints because all of this is part and parcel of elite sport in which one team is vying with another, but I can guarantee that when the game kicks off the overriding factor will be respect.

"It is only by having this kind of approach that you give yourself the best possible chance of being successful on the day. If you don't know how good the opposition are and respect that, how can you possibly beat them?"

The Liverpool captain also spoke of his bemusement at some of the criticism directed at City earlier in the season, and he felt there were similarities with the reaction to the Reds' shock 3-3 draw with Brentford last weekend.

"The mad thing is it's only a couple of games ago that reactionary questions were being asked of City after a home draw against Southampton," Henderson continued. "Honestly, that baffles me. This Man City are without question one of the most consistently successful teams of the modern era.

"But it is the world we live in now I suppose. A result and performance in isolation is analysed to death, ignoring wider context.

"The flip-side to that sort of reaction is it speaks volumes about the standards being set. It was similar for us last weekend when we drew at Brentford. Was it the perfect result? No. Did we want a better one? Of course.

"But the reality is that every team will play games throughout the season when points will be dropped against opponents whom you're supposedly favourites to beat, because that is just what the Premier League is like.

"There were positives, but these were undermined by individual and collective shortcomings at key moments and this cost us two points. This is why it was so important that we responded in the manner that we did against Porto in midweek. It is one thing to have an off-day, it is another thing to allow it to turn into two or three."

Could Darwin Nunez be the next Benfica star to make a big move?

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid in a club-record deal in 2019.

Now, Uruguay international Nunez is attracting interest from across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FRONT OF QUEUE FOR NUNEZ

Manchester City are leading the race to sign Darwin Nunez from Portuguese giants Benfica, according to the Daily Star.

Premier League champions City are desperate to sign a forward amid links with Tottenham's Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Nunez has also reportedly attracted interest from BarcelonaLiverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

– United forward Edinson Cavani could join Real Madrid in January, claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Cavani finds himself battling Cristiano Ronaldo for regular game time at Old Trafford, where the club's hierarchy are concerned amid their form under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- The Daily Star reports Arsenal are weighing up a move for out-of-favour City forward Raheem SterlingBarca are also believed to be interested in Sterling, according to The Sun, as they face the prospect of missing out on Leipzig's Dani Olmo. The Spain international has been linked with United, Juventus and Bayern.

Liverpool are eyeing Pogon Szczecin midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, says the Mirror. The 17-year-old has been linked with Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, RB Leipzig and Salzburg.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp likened players and people refusing the coronavirus vaccine to drink-drivers amid a reluctance to receive the COVID-19 jab.

Klopp discussed the COVID-19 vaccination ahead of Liverpool's blockbuster showdown with Premier League champions Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

While Klopp said "99 per cent" of his squad are fully vaccinated, many Premier League clubs are reportedly yet to reach half of their players receiving both jabs.

"I didn't have to convince the players, it was more a natural decision from the team," Klopp told reporters. "I cannot remember really talking to a player in a one-on-one situation and explaining to him."

"It sounds like we are not allowed to give people advice," Klopp added. "Where did I get the knowledge from that I think it makes sense to get the vaccine? I called doctors that I've known for years and I asked them: 'What should I do?'

"That's how I usually work: when you don't know, you call a specialist and the specialist tells you. That's why I took the vaccination because I am in an age group [54] where it is not that easy anymore, the virus could be tricky, and I was really happy when I could get it. The specialists out there say the vaccination is the solution at the moment.

"If I say I am vaccinated, other people say: 'How can you tell me I should be vaccinated?' It is a little bit like drink-driving. We all probably were in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought we still could drive but, [because of] the law, we are not allowed to drive so we don't drive. But this law is not there for protecting me when I drink two beers and want to drive, it's for protecting all the other people because I'm drunk and we accept that as a law.

"I don't take the vaccination only to protect me, I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me. I don't understand why that is a limitation of freedom because, if it is, then not being allowed to drink and drive is a limitation of freedom as well.

"I got the vaccination because I was concerned about myself but even more so about everybody around me. If I get [Covid] and I suffer from it: my fault. If I get it and spread it to someone else: my fault and not their fault."

Liverpool – the only side still unbeaten in the Premier League this season – can return to the top of the table with victory at home to Pep Guardiola's City on Merseyside.

The Reds have not lost consecutive league games against City since a run of four between 1935 and 1937, going down 4-1 the last time the sides met in February.

Liverpool are unbeaten in 16 league games (W12 D4) – the longest current run without defeat in the top-four tiers of English football. However, Klopp's men conceded more goals in their 3-3 draw at Brentford last time out than they had in their previous eight league games combined (two).

Guardiola has lost more games against Klopp in all competitions than he has against any opposing manager in his career (eight). Meanwhile, of sides he has faced at least 10 times in all competitions, the Spaniard's lowest win rate is against Liverpool (30.8 per cent - W4 D4 L5).

"All these kind of feelings have to be there - excitement, nervousness, pressure, emotions," Guardiola said. "If you don't have those feelings in important games, like the previous ones or for the biggest ones, this business is not for you.

"Maybe you don't sleep better the day before, or sleep good when it's over or not if the performance is not good, but this is how you live this life.

"I still have it before the games. If you don't feel that you are not for the business. You have to feel it."

Paul Pogba has been the subject of constant speculation over the past 12 months.

Manchester United's French midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

Pogba has been in excellent early season form, with seven assists in the league already.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID MOVE LOOMS FOR POGBA

Real Madrid are Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba's most likely destination at the end of this season, claims El Nacional.

The France international is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of this season and could leave on a free transfer.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is trying to persuade Pogba to join Madrid, despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

Liverpool target Karim Adeyemi is being chased by German pair Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, reports Sport Bild. RB Leipzig are also monitoring the 19-year-old Salzburg striker.

Marco Asensio appears destined to leave Madrid given his current role, with Sevilla hoping to sign the midfielder, according to El Gol Digital.

– Fichajes reports that Milan are plotting a January move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

– The Sun claims that Tottenham have revived their interest in West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone as they seek a successor to Hugo Lloris.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho wants to reunite with Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele by signing him, reports Calciomercato.

– Marca claims that Manchester City are considering tabling an offer to sign Villareal forward Pau Torres .

With another international break almost upon us, fantasy football players will be able to rest easy for a couple of weeks at the start of October.

But first, there are plenty of important points to be had.

With Liverpool hosting Manchester City, Chelsea eager to get back to winning ways and Arsenal preparing for a tricky test at Brighton and Hove Albion, there is plenty of value to be had with some wise selections.

Allow Stats Perform to lend a guiding hand, with the help of Opta data...

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Chelsea v Southampton)

Back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Juventus have somewhat derailed Chelsea's good start to the season, and Thomas Tuchel will expect a response against Southampton.

Saints have failed to score in their past three league matches and, in Edouard Mendy, they will be facing the goalkeeper with the best save percentage in the division this season (90 per cent), out of those to have played more than once in the competition.

Mendy is conceding just once every 225 minutes on average, a stat likely to worry winless Southampton but bring encouragement to fantasy football players.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON (Liverpool v Manchester City)

Since the start of last season, Andy Robertson has provided eight Premier League assists. The only defender with more is, you guessed it, Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (nine).

The England right-back is also the only defender since last September with more passes into the box and chances created than Robertson, who has managed 329 and 52 respectively.

With Alexander-Arnold ruled out by Jurgen Klopp due to injury, Robertson could play an even more pivotal role for the Reds against the reigning champions.

 

JOAO CANCELO (Liverpool v Manchester City)

If you are looking for value in both boxes, Joao Cancelo may well be your best bet.

No Premier League defender has had more touches in the opposition box (16), while only Cancelo and team-mate Ruben Dias can boast five clean sheets in the competition in the 2021-22 season so far.

With 10 shots and one assist to his name, Cancelo will be another full-back to watch with interest at Anfield.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace v Leicester City)

Leicester could be vulnerable after a Thursday Europa League trip to Poland, especially with Palace having gone three home games without defeat while conceding just once.

The Foxes also happen to be among Wilfried Zaha's favourite opponents. The Ivory Coast international has six goals and two assists against them in 12 games, more than he has against any other side.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that, as a player, Palace boss Patrick Vieira played 11 times against Leicester and never lost.

 

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Wolves v Newcastle United)

Aside from being one of the most fun players in the top flight, Allan Saint-Maximin is also Newcastle's greatest goal threat.

With two scored and three assisted, he has been directly involved in 71 per cent of all the Magpies' league goals this season and has had a hand in at least one in each of his past four appearances.

Newcastle have only won one of their most recent nine league encounters with Wolves, who themselves have not beaten their next opponents at home since April 1993. Perhaps Saint-Maximin is the man to tip the balance.

 

NEAL MAUPAY (Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal)

Speaking of key players, Brighton owe half of their eight league goals this season to Neal Maupay, who is looking to score in three consecutive top-flight matches for the first time in a year.

Arsenal are one of his preferred opponents, too: he has scored the winner in two out of three league meetings with the Gunners.

Mikel Arteta's side should be feeling positive after their derby win, but the Seagulls have won three of their past four home matches in the league, as many as they had managed in their previous 22.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU (Chelsea v Southampton)

After drawing a blank in his previous four outings in all competitions, Romelu Lukaku will be keen to get back among the goals.

Chelsea's record signing will be glad of his next opponents, then: he has nine goals in 12 previous Premier League games against Southampton and has never scored more against a single side in the division.

The Blues have scored six first-half goals in 2021-22 – only Liverpool can match that tally – so an early Lukaku strike may well be on the cards.

Pep Guardiola is "happier than ever" with the way Manchester City are playing and says Liverpool are just one of "many" Premier League title contenders ahead of Sunday's clash at Anfield.

City were beaten 2-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday following an impressive 1-0 win at Chelsea last weekend.

The champions could go top of the table if they beat leaders Liverpool on Merseyside, where they won 4-1 last season to end a run of 17 away games without a league win over the Reds.

Guardiola feels his side, who trail the Reds by only a point after six games, are in great shape despite their setback in the French capital.

Asked about the importance of keeping pace with the leaders, the City boss said: "I never thought about this.

"Ten games is so important to not be far away from the leader. The year we won the second league [title] in a row back-to-back [in 2018-19), we were seven points behind Liverpool in January and we won the league.

"I'm not going to make a step back the way we're thinking, just improve is what we have to do. We can be better in some departments. In general, [with] the team I am more happy than ever the way we behave and play.

"We played in Chelsea as a great team, a real team. This is what I like. We are trying, this is my job."

He added: "I start to see the table after 10-15 fixtures. Now to be one point ahead or down is not important. it's the way we play."

The top six teams in the Premier League are separated by just a point and Guardiola believes City have plenty of competition in their battle to retain the title.

Asked if Liverpool are contenders along with Chelsea, the Spaniard said: "And United, no? Liverpool since I arrived here, the first year maybe not, after the year we won 100 points Liverpool always was there.

"Last season they had many problems in the same position. Otherwise it would have been different, and we were excellent again.

"The last four years all the time we were both there. It's the biggest compliment both clubs were there. In the Premier League there are not just one, two, there are many teams who can fight for the league."

Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko will miss the trip to Anfield, but Guardiola says the duo return from injury after the international break.

City will be looking to secure back-to-back league victories at Liverpool for the first time since January 1953 against a Reds side that are unbeaten in 16 top-flight matches.

Jurgen Klopp hailed Manchester City as the "best team in Europe" as Liverpool prepare to host the reigning Premier League champions on Sunday.

Liverpool are the only side still unbeaten in the Premier League after six matches and have not lost in 16 league games as they sit a point clear at the top.

However, City have conceded the fewest top-flight goals this term (one) and the Reds have won just one of their seven games against Pep Guardiola's side in the competition.

Klopp, who has inflicted the most defeats on Guardiola in all competitions (eight), is aware of the challenge that awaits him as two title contenders face off at Anfield.

"Manchester City are for me the best team in Europe at the moment," Klopp told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Last weekend they played Chelsea and they are good but City were clearly better that day. That's the team we face.

"We have to score, so that's been helpful but we have to defend on our highest level. We have to be brave, front-footed, cheeky in moments, really your best version and then and only then do you have a chance.

"What we did last week or the other day was okay but we need a complex football challenge.

"It's better that we don't have to boost the confidence of the players right now. Sometimes you do from time to time.

"We have a positive view but we know we haven't played City yet. We'll use the Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain games. This is a special game."

Liverpool may boast the only unbeaten start but they were downed 4-1 the last time the two sides met in February.

However, the Reds have not lost consecutive league games against City since a run of four between 1935 and 1937 as Klopp warned that his team's start is only the beginning if they want to be successful.

"We have to defend as a unit," he continued. "It will be tricky of course and the individual quality will shine on both sides and hopefully it will be good enough for us.

"I just want to play the best season we can play. So far, so good, but it's just a few games in.

"A draw would mean we're still unbeaten. Would I take it now? It's early, let's play the game and ask me after that. So far the start is [fine] but it's not that we think we couldn't have done better.

"If we win, I'd think it was a 'proper' start. But then we play Watford, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United."

Trepidation has been a common feeling among Manchester City fans when it comes to the adaptation of new signings under Pep Guardiola.

That's not necessarily down to doubts over the players generally, or Guardiola, but rather how those two factors will come together.

After all, it's been noted for a while now just how common it seems to be for Guardiola's signings to perhaps underwhelm in their first season at City, only to then kick on and really make an impact in their second season.

While it's hardly an exact science, numerous players fit into that category; Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are certainly among them, and there's even a case to be made that Ferran Torres could qualify given he's made a solid start to 2021-22 after an up-and-down 2020-21.

Jack Grealish probably wouldn't have had too many supporters concerned, though you could argue the pressure on him to succeed straight away was far greater and that in itself might've been a burden.

Yet his transition from key man at Aston Villa to a similarly central figure has been impressively seamless.

If it ain't broken…

Much of the focus around Grealish's £100million move to City centred on where he would be deployed by Guardiola.

There were a lot of suggestions that he was actually set to be tried in more of a central position, perhaps with the idea being to make the most of his ball-carrying abilities.

While Grealish's name has seemingly been spotted in various starting positions on line-up graphics and the like, he's still unmistakably been more prominent out on the left flank – 73 per cent of his actions have been localised to the left side of the pitch in the opposition's half, up from 51 per cent at Villa last term.

Of course, at City he is in a team that spends more time on the front foot and in possession than Villa in 2020-21, so such an increase isn't exactly a surprise, but it does suggest Guardiola hasn't tried to make major changes just yet.

Instant influence

Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain was probably Grealish's trickiest game yet for City – as one might expect.

That's not to say he played especially poorly, as he did manage to record a couple of key passes, but generally he was frustrated. Achraf Hakimi's athleticism helped the Moroccan do a good job on Grealish, while referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was rarely sympathetic to the England international.

It wasn't a huge surprise when Guardiola opted to withdraw him with 22 minutes remaining, but despite that blip, there has been plenty to be optimistic about Grealish's settling-in period at City.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Grealish's trademark comfort on the ball has been a particular factor, and his start at City speaks to his own self-belief.

He's averaging 25 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres in possession) each game in the Premier League, more than any other player, while his total carry distance of 1,787.5 metres is second only to a man who seems to know no other skill, Adama Traore (1,844.5m).

His forays on the ball are helping to drive City forward as well, with Traore (55) and Allan Saint-Maximin (48) the only players to record more progressive carries of at least 10m. The one other City player with more than 34 is Aymeric Laporte.

Additionally, those carries have led to 11 goalscoring opportunities, with three ending in a shot by Grealish or eight leading to a key pass. Again, only five have been more effective with their end product when running with the ball.

To come into the champions' team and instantly become such an influence is an impressive feat in itself.

More than meets the eye

Of course, some might be tempted to point towards Grealish's rather modest return of two goal involvements (one goal, one assist) in six Premier League appearances this term, but that would be too reductive.

Having a solitary assist, for example, certainly doesn't tell the whole story. After all, his 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes is second only to Bruno Fernandes (3.0) in the league, while Grealish's 0.26 expected assists (xA) each game is bettered by just five players.

It's also worth pointing out his xA per 90 is greater than his assists per 90 (0.17), suggesting he's actually being let down by the finishing of his team-mates.

As for his goalscoring efforts, we all know Grealish is capable of the spectacular but his shot selection at City has seemingly been focused on ensuring maximum threat to the goalkeeper, with all but one coming from inside the box. With his shots averaging 0.12 xG as opposed to 0.09 last season, there's every reason to expect greater long-term results.

Furthermore, there is evidence to support the idea Grealish is slightly more involved in general build-up play as well, his open-play sequence involvement going up from 43.7 per 90 to 47.8 – though City do see more of the ball, so it is probably too soon to make any meaningful conclusions from that.

Nevertheless, it is another example of how Grealish has quickly become a key influencer in the City team. While those early reports of him literally playing a central role may not have quite come to fruition, he has at least in a figurative sense, with Rodri the sole City player involved in more sequences (53.8) each game than him.

It's already been a hectic period for City, given they've faced Chelsea and PSG in less than a week, and it will ramp up again with another big test in their attempts to become early runaway leaders when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The following day will be exactly a year on from Grealish's devastating display in Villa's 7-2 win over the Reds, during which he had a hand in five goals (three assists, two goals), a haul that has only ever been bettered twice in a single Premier League match.

While no one will be expecting quite an astonishing performance this time, it's at least evidence of what Grealish is capable of if Liverpool cannot keep him under wraps.

Liverpool will be without Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara for Sunday's Premier League clash with Manchester City.

Full-back Alexander-Arnold sat out the 5-1 Champions League win at Porto on Tuesday due to a muscle problem, while Thiago has missed the Reds' previous three games with a calf injury.

Manager Jurgen Klopp does not expect either to be available until after the international break.

Speaking to the club's website on Thursday, he said: "No 'news' means they are doing well but they won't have enough time for being back against City, but I expect them both to be back after the international break. 

"But we have a good team so we still have solutions and we have to use them and yeah, after the international break the boys will be back I think."

City won 4-1 at Anfield last season to end a 17-game run without an away league win over Klopp's men.

Liverpool, who are on a 16-game unbeaten run in league football, will be hoping to avoid suffering back-to-back defeats to City for the first time since 1937.

The Reds go into the latest round of matches at the top of the table, one point ahead of a five-team chasing pack that includes City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw scored her first hat-trick for Manchester City on Wednesday to propel the team into the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup where they will face Chelsea on October 31.

Cristiano Ronaldo's presence at Juventus may have had a negative effect on some of his team-mates as they started to take wins for granted, according to Leonardo Bonucci.

Portugal captain Ronaldo's three-year stay at the Allianz Stadium came to an end last month when returning to Manchester United in a shock transfer.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 101 goals in 134 appearances.

That includes a return of 36 goals in 2020-21, a tally bettered by only four players across Europe's top five leagues when taking all competitions into account.

But Juventus missed out on the title in a disappointing campaign last time out that saw them only just scrape into fourth place.

The Bianconeri did win the Scudetto in Ronaldo's previous two campaigns, but they never made it past the quarter-final stage of the Champions League in three attempts.

Bonucci has suggested Juve too often became reliant on Ronaldo – who has four goals in four games since rejoining United – to win them matches.

"This was the thing. The idea that one player, even the best in the world, could guarantee Juventus victory," he told The Athletic. "Cristiano's presence had a big influence on us. 

"Just training with him gave us something extra but subconsciously players started to think his presence alone was enough to win games. 

"We began to fall a little short in our daily work, the humility, the sacrifice, the desire to be there for your team-mate day after day. Over the last few years, you could see that.

"Last season, we finished fourth and won the Coppa Italia because we became a team again. 

"If you had thrown a piece of wood in the dressing room before those games it would have caught fire such was the electricity running through it. We missed that. 

"Maybe it was taken for granted that if we gave the ball to Cristiano he'd win us the game. But Cristiano needed the team as much as we needed him. 

"There had to be a trade-off because it's the team that lifts the individual even if the individual is the best player on the planet."

Bonucci has spent 11 seasons with Juve either side of a one-year spell at Milan in 2017-18, helping the Turin heavyweights to 17 trophies across a 445-game spell.

The 358 Serie A appearances made by Bonucci since he first joined Juve in July 2010 is a tally bettered by only four other players in the competition – Radja Nainggolan (360), Andrea Consigli (361), Antonio Candreva (365) and Samir Handanovic (408).

However, the veteran Italy centre-back has revealed he nearly left Juve a year prior to that unsuccessful Milan switch when Pep Guardiola and Manchester City came calling.

"I had this dream of being coached by Pep," Bonucci said. "The closest we came was in 2016. I was on the brink of joining City. 

"We were down to the very last details then Juventus decided not to sell. We decided to stay together. Then I went to AC Milan. 

"I could have gone to City but several things had to fall into place for it to happen. I'd also given my word to Milan. 

"Last year, I spoke to Pep again. He wanted me but I told him: 'Juventus is my home. I'm happy here. I feel at home here'. 

"I wanted to make up the ground I lost by going to Milan for a season. Becoming a symbol of Juventus again is the most exciting thing I could be doing in my career right now."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.