Pep Guardiola described Liverpool as "one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life" and is thrilled the Premier League title race is heading for a "fair" conclusion.

Guardiola's Manchester City side fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday, with Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty to clinch all three points.

It means City hold a four-point lead over the quadruple-chasing Reds, who still have two games to play and will ensure the race for the title goes to the wire as long as they avoid defeat against Southampton on Tuesday – albeit a draw would mean Jurgen Klopp's side would need a seven-goal swing to usurp their rivals.

For Guardiola, the scenario heading into a dramatic final week of the domestic season is perfect.

"I said to the players after the game that we could not expect any different against a team fighting to win the Premier League that is one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life," said the City boss.

"Against this Liverpool you cannot win the league a month ago or two or three fixtures ago. You have to fight until the end.

"I said [to the players] today not to be said because you gave a really good performance and it is fair against this opponent to arrive on the final day to decide who is the best, because both teams are too good."

Jack Grealish was the man to spark City's second-half revival at the London Stadium and for the attacking midfielder there is an intriguing plot twist given the Citizens face Aston Villa on Sunday, the team he left for the Etihad Stadium in a £100million deal.

The England midfielder says there can be no time for sentiment as he aims to earn a first piece of major silverware with City.

"I can't wait and it's going to be a great day. It just had to be against Aston Villa, didn't it? It couldn't have been any other game," Grealish said.

"But that doesn't matter. It's not about me and it's not about who we're playing against. It's about the team and it's about the club. We are going to go out there and try to win and get all three points.

"It's going to be different for me. I've never had that before – I've never had a game on the last day to win a title."

Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City fans to "go to the streets" ahead of the Premier League leaders' final game of the season against Aston Villa.

City found themselves 2-0 down to West Ham at half-time on Sunday but fought back to draw 2-2.

However, City missed a chance to win it late on when Riyad Mahrez saw a penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski. It is only the second penalty the Algeria international has missed during his time with the club, having also squandered an opportunity from 12 yards against Liverpool in October 2018.

Fabianski, meanwhile, has saved 10 Premier League penalties, with only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) stopping more spot-kicks in the competition.

That draw lifts City four points above Liverpool, who won the FA Cup on Saturday by beating Chelsea on penalties, with one match left to play.

It comes next Sunday, against a Liverpool great, as Steven Gerrard takes his Aston Villa team to the Etihad Stadium. The Reds, meanwhile, face Southampton on Tuesday and then host Wolves in their final game.

Should Southampton claim an unlikely win, the title will be City's, but any other result means it is heading to the last day - something that Guardiola is relishing.

"Next week our stadium will be sold out, will give them our lives and they will give theirs, all together," he told a news conference.

"To do it is an incredible privilege, after many years, incredible. To have our chance with our people, to win one game to be champions. I'm looking forward to it.

"If they lose or win it depends on us, do the most perfect game we possibly can do, all the people, all blue people in Manchester, go to the streets and go to the stadium because they know we're going to give everything to win that game and they will be so proud."

City trailed by two or more goals at half-time for the 53rd time in the Premier League, with this only the second time they have avoided defeat from such a position (D2 L51), while they remain unbeaten away from home in the top flight since losing their opening match away to Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are not experiencing a personality crisis as he aimed a startling put-down at former Manchester United stars Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov.

The City manager was riled by criticism from Evra and Berbatov, now both working as pundits, after City surrendered a winning position to go out at Real Madrid's hands in the Champions League semi-finals.

Evra claimed Guardiola "can’t train people with personality", while Berbatov offered a response that was not far from Guardiola's own assessment, albeit saying City "had to be more concentrated and focused" in the closing moments.

There was also criticism from former Milan and Madrid star Clarence Seedorf, who said City lacked the necessary "mentality" to come through such a test, comparing them to Paris Saint-Germain.

City were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the closing minutes against Madrid on May 4, only to concede a quickfire double to Rodrygo, before Karim Benzema hit a penalty winner in extra time.

It was a dizzying turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu, but City have responded by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 and picking apart Wolves 5-1 to reassert their Premier League supremacy over Champions League finalists Liverpool.

Guardiola denies City have any issues with their attitude, saying the approach that brought the back-to-back heavy league wins was "the same character that lost to Madrid in the last two or three minutes".

"The former players like Dimitar Berbatov, Clarence Seedorf, Patrice Evra... these type of people they were there," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's clash with West Ham on Sunday.

"I played against them and I didn't see this kind of personality when we destroyed them in the Champions League final against United."

That was an apparent reference to Guardiola's Barcelona beating United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final, when Evra and Berbatov both featured on the losing team at the Stadio Olimpico as the Catalan giants sealed a treble. The teams also met at the same stage in 2011, but Berbatov was not involved in that game, which the Blaugrana won 3-1.

"[They say] we don't have personality because we concede in the last minutes, and after the last two games we have personality," Guardiola added.

"Personality is what we have done in the last five years. Maybe Liverpool is going to win all four titles or just one. Am I going to say they don't have personality or that they had a bad season?

"Of course they have and of course they are good, but sometimes in football, it happens.

"It is football, you cannot control it. When you always arrive in the latter stages, semi-finals, finals, it is incredible. This for me, because we arrive until the end, playing a lot of games, this is the most important thing."

Pep Guardiola acknowledged a win over West Ham would put Manchester City on the brink of the Premier League title, telling his team not to be distracted by speculation over his future.

City need just four points from a trip to West Ham and a home encounter with Aston Villa to win their fourth league title under the former Barcelona boss, while three points could be enough after Guardiola's men opened up a significant goal-difference advantage over Liverpool with a 5-1 win at Wolves.

The defending champions became the first team in English top-flight history to win five successive games by three goals or more with that victory, in which Kevin De Bruyne became the fourth different City player to hit four goals in a Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Speaking on the day City revealed a statue of Aguero at the Etihad Stadium on the 10th anniversary of his famous title-winning goal against QPR, Guardiola said he would not mind a repeat of that incredible 2011-12 triumph, but he said nothing could compare to City's first Premier League title win.

He also described Sunday's trip to West Ham as a "final", where a win would put his side on the brink of the title.

"It can happen if it finishes that way, why not?" Guardiola said. "But it will be incomparable. The first time is always the first time; even if we score in the 93rd minute and 20 seconds, it will be the second time.

"The first time is always special in everything we do in our lives. Arriving in this moment, it's important to finish well and try to win.

"We need four points, six points to finish as champion, and I think everybody knows with a win in West Ham it will be almost, almost done, with the goal difference and many things.

"It's absolutely a final, as it was at Wolves, where we performed incredibly well, and we have to try to do it again."

City are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League games, winning eight and drawing two, and have not lost on any of their last 12 Premier League meetings with the Hammers (10 wins, two draws).

Guardiola's team have suffered several injuries to key defenders in recent weeks, with John Stones, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while Aymeric Laporte was substituted during the second half at Molineux.

Although the City boss said his team were lucky not to have suffered these injuries earlier in the season, he said he trusted his players to cope in two vital end-of-season contests.

"I said many times if we'd had to handle with these absences for many, many games, months, we'd be in big trouble, with a big problem," he added.

"For one or two games, the players will do their best, even players not playing in their [normal] position. The concentration, the focus when you play in that position is higher, and like we saw against Wolves, they can do it."

Guardiola's own future has been the subject of much speculation of late, with the Spaniard telling Sky Sports on Thursday that it was "not time" to discuss a new contract with City.

With Liverpool extending Jurgen Klopp's contract to run until 2026 last month, speculation abounded over whether Guardiola would follow suit, but he stressed he is only focused on ending the season well.

"If I don't know what's going to happen in the next two games, imagine trying to figure out what's going to happen in the future!" he told a news conference.

"All of you when you ask me that question – 'What's going to happen?' – my answer is always the same: 'I don't know.' I'd love to say we're going to do well in the next years, but I don't know.

"Things in football change so quickly. When you believe or think it's sorted, it's good, it's in control, it gives you a good punch in your face. At the same time, when everything looks like a disaster, it's drama, a nightmare, one win can change everything.

"Before it was just Wolves, now it's just West Ham in my mind. It's 11 months of work to arrive in this moment. We cannot be distracted by anything else but trying to win the games."

Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have joined Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

De Bruyne, who won the award in 2019-20 despite Manchester City missing out on the title to Liverpool that season, is enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the club.

He netted four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, taking him to 19 in all competitions.

Salah is the only other past winner to be up for the award, having scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists (both league-high tallies) in another outstanding campaign as Liverpool battle City for the title.

Fellow Reds star Alexander-Arnold is also on the shortlist after racking up 12 assists in 31 appearances, as is Tottenham forward Son, who scored his 21st league goal of the campaign in Spurs' 3-0 win over Arsenal on Thursday.

Despite hitting 18 and 15 league goals respectively this season, Manchester United and Spurs strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane are among the highest-profile players to miss out being nominated.

The other players on the eight-man shortlist are City defender Joao Cancelo, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen is one of just three Premier League players to record double figures for goals and assists this season (both 10, along with Salah and Chelsea's Mason Mount).

Meanwhile, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are in contention to be named Manager of the Season at the end of another enthralling title race between their teams.

Guardiola has already won the award on three occasions (in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21), the same amount as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Only Alex Ferguson, with 11, has won it more often.

Klopp won the award when he led Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019-20, while the other three nominees all manage sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Brentford's Thomas Frank is among them after leading the Bees to safety in their first top-flight season since 1946-47, as is Patrick Viera after an impressive first campaign with Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United's Eddie Howe is the final boss on the five-man shortlist, after the Magpies became the first side to go winless through their first 14 games in a Premier League campaign and avoid relegation (three had done so and gone down - Swindon Town in 1993-94, QPR in 2012-13, and Sheffield United in 2020-21).

Public votes will contribute towards deciding the winner of each award, with Premier League club captains also getting a vote on the players' award and a "panel of football experts" helping to choose the winning manager.

Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Pep Guardiola says any extension to his Manchester City contract will not be agreed until next year, insisting now is not the time to discuss his future.

City require just four points from their final two games to secure the fourth Premier League title of Guardiola's reign at the Etihad Stadium after thrashing Wolves 5-1 on Wednesday.

Title rivals Liverpool extended manager Jurgen Klopp's contract until 2026 last month, sparking speculation City could look to do the same with Guardiola, whose current deal expires at the end of next season.

But Guardiola says any new contract will have to wait until next year, even though he revealed he would be happy to stay for another decade if he was certain City would continue to perform at their current level.

"If I extend the contract, it will be at the end of the next season," he told Sky Sports. "Before then, it's not going to happen. 

"It's many years and I have to see how the team and ourselves, how we are together. Knowing it, I would stay 10 more years. 

"But we have to take time for that, absolutely. It's not time, absolutely in this season, or during the next season."

City look increasingly likely to wrap up another domestic title after becoming the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by at least three goals.

However, their European woes continued when they fell to a stunning 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals earlier in May.

Guardiola will have gone 12 years without winning European football's biggest prize by the time he gets another opportunity to win the competition, but insists continental success will not dictate his future.

Asked whether he would only stay if City win the Champions League next term, he responded: "Absolutely not. We compete, for the margins, extremely well in the Champions League. 

"In my life, we won the Champions League in Barcelona with seven players who came from the academy. Nothing changed my life. I was happy for that.

"Yes, I'm disappointed, we wanted to play the final, but it's not going to change my future or my past. The reason why we came here to England, it's already done. We wanted to do it, we did it."

Pep Guardiola labelled Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City's "key man" after the midfielder scored four in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves, while he expressed his excitement to manage Erling Haaland next season.

City ran riot at Molineux to restore their three-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit, and now need just four points from their final two games to win a second consecutive league title.

De Bruyne became the fourth different player to score four goals for City in a Premier League match (after Edin Dzeko, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero – who did so on three occasions), as City bolstered their goal difference, which could yet prove to be crucial in the title race.

City are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws), and have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.

Guardiola's men also became the first team to have five or more shots on target while scoring each in a Premier League game since Liverpool in December 2019 (a 5-2 win against Everton), thanks in large part to De Bruyne's incredible display of finishing.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the win, Guardiola hailed the midfielder as "incredible" after he reached 19 goals for the season in all competitions, saying he had been City's most important player in the run-in.

"The way he's playing in the last two or three months, especially in the Premier League, has been outstanding. In the Champions League as well," he said. "He has been our key man in the last part of the season. 

"It's not just what he creates and the goals and everything, I'm happy because he always had a sense for the assists and was so generous, always thinking what's best for the team.

"But we always tried to push him, [saying] 'you have to win games, you have to score goals', and this year I think is his most prolific season in this sense."

City were widely criticised after falling to a 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals last week, but responded with consecutive thrashings of Newcastle United and Wolves.

Guardiola was keen to praise his team's character after they produced a dominant performance on their first away trip since Madrid.

"Did you have any doubts after what these guys have done in the last five years? They have personality, they have character, they have everything," he added. 

"We were in control, we started really well, scored a goal, and one moment where we didn't defend the transition properly we conceded a goal [Leander Dendoncker's equaliser]. After, we found the goal quick and it helped us a lot."

Although City have already hit 94 Premier League goals this season, their attack will be further bolstered after the announcement that Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland has agreed a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said he was excited to work with the Norway star, who has hit 85 goals in all competitions since joining Dortmund in January 2020, and believes the 21-year-old will have no problem adapting in England.

"It's a decision for the club to make a good signing for the future, he'll come for many, many years, hopefully. I'm pretty sure he'll adapt perfectly to our team, but it will be next season," he added on Haaland.

"I'm excited in my job and of course, I like to work with good players, because the players make you a good manager. 

"Of course, he's an incredible young talent with a perfect age, and I'm pretty sure we're going to help him settle as quickly as possible."

Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.

In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola's team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.

The Belgian's hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.

De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.

Guardiola's men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner. 

Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto's cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.

The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.

The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri's weak clearance after 60 minutes. 

De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.

What does it mean? City remain in pole position

De Bruyne's brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.

With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola's men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.

Devastating De Bruyne stars

De Bruyne's four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City's all-important advantage over Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.

City extend record away run

The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club's league history.

However, Dendoncker's goal prevented Guardiola's side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.

What's next?

City continue their push for the title when they travel to West Ham on Sunday, while Wolves host relegated Norwich City on the same day.

Paul Dickov says Erling Haaland will complement Manchester City despite the array of talent already there, propelling them to a higher level.

Ending months of speculation on Tuesday, City confirmed Haaland's transfer from Borussia Dortmund has been agreed in principle.

Meanwhile, City are in the box seat to win their second consecutive Premier League title and sixth in ten years, level with Liverpool atop the table but with a game in hand.

Dickov, who played for the Sky Blues alongside Haaland's father Alf-Inge, spoke exclusively with Stats Perform and believes the 21-year-old striker will help City progress even further under Pep Guardiola.

"They won it last year without having an out-and-out centre forward," Dickov said. "I know it's so tight this year, but as we stand at the minute, it's a little bit of an advantage to Manchester City - they've shown they can do it without signing one.

"I think if Erling Haaland had been in this team this year, City would have been out of sight weeks ago, and so on. It's scary to think about it, but it's going to take them to a completely different level now.

"I've followed Erling a long time, obviously, the connection I've got with his dad, and the improvement from his first time for Dortmund to now. His all-round game even in the last season or so, for somebody that's only 21, the maturity of the game management, it shows when he went there, there was an out-and-out goal scorer that he is now."

 

The Norway international has scored 28 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions despite an injury-interrupted campaign.

Irrespective of the talent-packed squad City already have and Guardiola's setup, Dickov is confident Haaland will fill the void up front for City, who were strongly linked with Harry Kane last season.

"The people can argue against that and say City scored five at the weekend, a couple of weeks ago against Watford, four against Leeds, you know, but they have been missing that out and out number nine," he said.

"I think any player that comes in to Manchester City, it's a new way of playing for them. A new style, they've got quality players within there already, and I look at Erling's improvement.

"With players like De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, and you could go on and on, but the amount of chances that they do create, they've just needed an out-and-out finisher to do it and Erling Haaland is one of the best in the world."

Pep Guardiola would not confirm that Manchester City will be signing Erling Haaland, but he teased that "everybody knows the situation".

Haaland has been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium from Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, with City said to be ready to trigger the striker's release clause, believed to be around €75million (£64.2m).

Speaking at a media conference ahead of his team's trip to Wolves in the Premier League, Guardiola explained he could not talk about any transfer, but did say it was because the two clubs involved told him not to.

"Everybody knows the situation," Guardiola told reporters. "I shouldn't talk because I don't like to talk about the future or next season.

"Dortmund and Man City told me I'm not allowed to say anything until it's completely done. We'll have time to talk.

"I'd love to talk, they tell me don't say anything until the legal actions [are done]. We'll have time to talk, not because I don't want to."

Norwegian striker Haaland has scored 85 goals in 88 games for Dortmund, though City have not exactly struggled for goals themselves this season, hitting five against Newcastle United on Sunday, meaning they have now bagged 89 goals in 35 Premier League games, more than anyone else.

Guardiola said new players can always help his team to improve, whether it comes in the form of transfers or through the youth set-up, and insisted he approves of the steps the club are taking.

"We have I guess new players in the squad, some from the academy come up next season," he said. "New players always helps [us] to be a stronger team. But not one defender or striker will solve our defensive or scoring problems.

"The club always has to have a vision for the future. The decisions the club makes I am aware and supportive 100 per cent."

The 5-0 win against Newcastle took City back to the top of the table, leading Liverpool by three points ahead of both teams' midweek fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were travelling to face Aston Villa on Tuesday before City's game at Wolves on Wednesday, and Guardiola understands that the quality of Liverpool means the clash at Molineux is a final for his team.

"Nothing changes, we can't affect what Liverpool do," he said.

"Both teams have done another impressive season. We know what we have to do, we will try to be there. Tomorrow is a final for us, an opportunity to arrive in the last game here with the title in our hands. It's massive for us."

The City boss also confirmed that none of his injured players will return on Wednesday, with defenders Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias not expected to play again this season.

"Nothing changed after the game against Newcastle," Guardiola said. "We are who we are for the next three games with the players we have. We have problems in one department, the others will solve it."

Manchester City's reportedly imminent capture of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland will "set new levels", according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Pep Guardiola's City and Klopp's Reds have emerged as the dominant forces in the Premier League since the 2018-19 season, when they finished on 98 and 97 points respectively in an enthralling battle for top spot, with each team winning one league title apiece since City's triumph that year.

Their rivalry has been stepped up again this season, with City currently three points clear at the top of the league with just three games remaining.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the hunt for a remarkable quadruple after winning the EFL Cup, reaching the Champions League final, and eliminating City in the FA Cup's last four to reach the showpiece.

However, City look set to bolster their ranks with the incredible signing of Haaland, who has scored 21 goals and provided seven assists in just 23 Bundesliga appearances this season, averaging a goal every 86.9 minutes.

With reports suggesting City could announce the signing of the Norway international before the end of this season, Klopp says Haaland's arrival could push City to new heights.

"I signed a new contract knowing City will not stop developing, so it's not about City to define if we can be happy or not, it's about us and what we can make of it," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"You have so many opportunities and so many different ways to win a football game, we have to find just one.

"It's possible, and you can do that, we can face City in two or three cup competitions, in the Champions League or whatever, in five or six finals a year maybe, all the rest we play against the other teams.

"Yes, if Erling Haaland goes there it will not weaken them, definitely not. I think it's been spoken about enough, this transfer. I know at the moment there's a lot of talk, and people talk about money.

"But this transfer will set new levels, let me say it like this."

Despite often playing without a recognised striker, Guardiola's team have netted more goals (89) than any other Premier League side this season (Liverpool are second with 87), and the 21-year-old forward will undoubtedly be thrilled by the prospect of featuring in a City team that has created 112 big chances in 35 league outings this term.

Since Haaland arrived in Germany from RB Salzburg at the start of 2020, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) have scored more than his 85 goals in all competitions, among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Jurgen Klopp has questioned why Liverpool would stop believing they can win the Premier League title and dismissed Pep Guardiola's claim that the entire country wants the Reds to be crowned champions.

Manchester City moved three points clear at the top of the table with three games to play by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 on Sunday after Liverpool were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham.

A visibly angered Klopp heaped criticism on the defensive style of football Antonio Conte employed at Anfield and Guardiola also delivered a notable post-match interview the following day.

The City boss suggested "everyone in this country supports Liverpool" in a thrilling title race.

However, Klopp explained Guardiola may have been talking in the heat of the moment after the game, as was the case following the Tottenham stalemate when Klopp suggested he could not coach like Conte.

"I live in Liverpool, here a lot of people want us to win the league but even here it is only 50 per cent," he told a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's clash with Aston Villa. 

"As managers, after a game, we're obviously massively influenced by games and situations. What I said after Spurs [the criticism of Conte], I wouldn't say it again.

"I said: 'they play like they play and are still only fifth', but that was just my feeling at the moment and I couldn't respect Antonio more.

"I don't know how Pep reacted after getting knocked out of the Champions League and of course, Liverpool made it to the final, we played Villarreal, they played Real Madrid.

"I have no idea if the whole country is supporting us, it is not the feeling when we go and play around the country. Maybe he knows more than me."

Liverpool are also four goals behind City on goal difference and Klopp says they must beat Villa, Southampton and Wolves to have any chance of dethroning City.

"It's easy to describe our situation. We drew, they won, the goal difference too. We can decide for ourselves how we see it. There are some facts but I try to help the boys see it like me," he added.

"I am not sure I said [the title race is still on] because it is obvious. We both have three to play, my concern is how can we win our games. We shouldn't add on points before games are played.

"Why should we stop believing? The perfect situation would be we were nine points clear, 30-plus goals but it's not possible, so let's go from here.

"Whatever happens tomorrow night if we win, it helps. If not, we train for the FA Cup final [against Chelsea on Saturday].

"Ideal world, we win them all. We have to respond. The only chance to win is to win all the games."

Klopp is looking forward to seeing how Liverpool respond after coming up against a well-organised Spurs side at the weekend.

"Having another game is cool but it's not that we have to overcome something," he continued. "When I said about it being a funeral, I meant the press conference, not the players.

"A draw was a normal result, especially against Spurs. We played a good game against a well-organised team.

"It's not possible to be perfect due to the part of the season we are in now. We have to keep going."

Pep Guardiola believes Liverpool are the neutrals' favourites for the Premier League title, but he knows it will not matter if Manchester City keep winning with the support of their fans. 

City endured a difficult week in which their Champions League hopes were dashed for another season, yet they reached Sunday evening in pole position for their latest domestic triumph. 

A 5-0 home win against Newcastle United moved City three points and, perhaps crucially, four goals ahead of Liverpool, who were held by Tottenham on Saturday. 

However, in a remarkable post-match interview with beIN SPORTS – in which he also highlighted Liverpool's lack of Premier League heritage – Guardiola suggested City's potential title success would not be popular in England. 

Asked about the change in the title race this weekend, the City manager quickly pointed out his side had already been in control. 

"One week ago, we were one point in front," he said. "But everybody in this country supports Liverpool, the media, everyone, because Liverpool has an incredible history in European competitions. 

"Not in the Premier League, because they've won one in 30 years. 

"But it's not a problem at all. The situation is what it is. We have to do nine points or maybe six right now – it depends on what is going to happen in the next two games in terms goal difference. 

"Now, Wednesday [against Wolves] is the real, real, real final for us. We are going to try to go there to win. Our destiny is in our own hands, and that's important. We have to look at ourselves. With one point or three points, nothing changed." 

Later in the same interview, Guardiola was asked to explain his comments. 

"Liverpool alongside [Manchester] United are the most important teams in history in terms of legacy, titles, history, dramas, for many, many things," he replied. 

"But we are in the last 10, 11, 12 years always there. I know we are sometimes uncomfortable, but I don't care. If the people want more [for] Liverpool to win than us, it's not the issue. It's normal. 

"Maybe there are more supporters all around the world for sure and here in England that support Liverpool more than us, but this is not the question. The question is, today, before the start of the game, the people cheering and supporting us more than ever in one home game. 

"They know that even being out of the Champions League, we can rely on these players. The support was amazing, and hopefully we can arrive at the last game here with the chance to be champions." 

Pep Guardiola revealed Manchester City will be without three key defenders for the Premier League title run-in and joked Phil Foden might have to step in at the back.

Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias have been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury, with Dias forced off at half-time against Newcastle United on Sunday with a muscle problem.

City won 5-0 and were dominant against a sluggish Newcastle side, but there are testing away games at Wolves and West Ham to come for Guardiola's team, before they round off their campaign at home to Aston Villa.

A three-point lead over second-placed Liverpool could come under threat if the situation becomes any worse.

Aymeric Laporte was partnered in central defence by veteran Fernandinho for the second half of the one-sided Newcastle clash, after which Guardiola told a media conference the news about Walker, Stones and Dias.

"In this situation it is not a problem. If Rodri has to play in that position it is not a problem, or if it's someone from the academy," Guardiola said.

Guardiola had earlier told Sky Sports: "If Phil Foden has to play as a central defender, he will play as a central defender."

Asked if that could really happen, Guardiola replied: "No."

Foden the attacker would be an obvious misfit in the backline, and City will hope they do not have excessive defending to do over the closing fortnight of the campaign. Wolves away is the next test, at Molineux on Wednesday.

Guardiola said City were "outstanding" and delivered a "perfect" display against Newcastle, four days after their agonising Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

"With what this team have done, did you have any doubts?" Guardiola said.

"We've been five years doing this, every three days. If some people doubt us, it's because they still don't know this team and what it is able to do.

"I'm not talking about winning or losing. It's not about one afternoon or one night. How many years, being there every three days, every time."

City have scored five or more goals in a Premier League game 30 times in the Guardiola era now.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are winless in 32 away games in the competition against teams starting the day inside the top two places in the table (D4 L28) since beating second-placed Arsenal at Highbury in December 2001.

City chief Guardiola was unsure why critics, including former players, might question the character in his ranks.

"It's one of the best groups I've ever trained in my life," Guardiola said.

"We passed through two tough days, but today we spoke for the first time [since Madrid] and I said, 'You have a perfect life, in the perfect club'.

"We are three points up front, nine points to play for, goal difference four goals ahead. Another final on Wednesday."

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