Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says it is “not realistic” to think of catching Liverpool in the Premier League title race, but says his side have a “duty to continue”.
Saturday’s loss to Manchester United, coupled with Liverpool’s win at Bournemouth, leaves the champions 14 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“It is not time to think about that,” Guardiola said.
“We have to try to continue. There are many things to play for.”
City would need to win all their remaining 22 games to reach the 98-point mark that secured the title last season.
Even then, City – now three points behind second-placed Leicester, having played a game more – would require a significant dip in form from Klopp’s side, who have won 15 of their 16 games this term.
“We think about what we have to do and the next game – it is not realistic to think about catching up,” Guardiola said.
“Obviously it is so difficult because the opponents have had 16 games with 15 victories and they are on an incredible run and sometimes we have dropped points. But our duty, and what you have to do, is continue.”
Analysis – City’s title hopes are over
Michael Brown – Former Manchester City midfielder on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra
Nobody has come back from a 14-point deficit to win the Premier League before, and if we are being honest, City’s title hopes are finished now.
For Liverpool to throw away their lead, two things need to happen. Yes, they could still drop points, although that does not look very likely at the moment. But for City to get back into contention now, they would also have to put a fantastic run together.
That is what worries me more, because City are a long way off their best. They look like they are going to drop more points themselves because they are not at the level they were at in the run-in last season, and that makes it harder to see it happen.
I said it on air at the final whistle that it is ‘game over’ for them regarding the Premier League but it the important thing now is how this group of players reacts to that, because there is lots more for them to play for, especially in Europe.
If a third successive title is not to be, then it is not the end of the world – they can go all out to win the Champions League and try to deliver that.
But the question now is what can Pep Guardiola do to try to improve his team, because they are not at the level they were at when they won the title last season.
They are just missing something in attack compared to where they were last season. They were more solid at the back then, but they were clinical going forward too and they were carving up teams.
Defensively they have clearly got some problems too, although I think you have to give credit to United for the way they played on Saturday. Yes, City left them too much room and they had all those chances, but United were so effective with their pace and power that meant they could attack so quickly.
Guardiola’s worst return – the stats
Guardiola has enjoyed a trophy-laden managerial career, winning titles in Spain, Germany and England.
However, while City were fourth at this stage in his first season (2016-17) at the club, they were only seven points behind the leaders and eventual champions Chelsea, who ended up 15 points better off than Guardiola’s side.
And, since then, close to £470m has been spent on new players to equip his team to compete on the domestic and European stage – with the club winning an unprecedented domestic treble last term.
But Guardiola and his City side now find themselves in unfamiliar territory:
- No side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many as 14 points behind the top side at the end of a match day.
- This season represents Guardiola’s worst points return after the first 16 matches of a top-flight season in his managerial career (32 pts).
- The Spaniard has also lost two home league games in a single season for only the third time in his managerial career (also 2014-15 with Bayern Munich and 2008-09 with Barcelona).