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Crunch Anfield battle is exactly why we play the game, insists De Bruyne

 

Stuck in: Kevin de Bruyne is fired up to take on Liverpool
Stuck in: Kevin de Bruyne is fired up to take on Liverpool

By Andy Hampson

Kevin de Bruyne is relishing the challenge as Manchester City prepare for this weekend's crunch clash at Liverpool.

The Premier League champions head to Anfield on Sunday for their first meeting of the season with the Merseysiders, who lead the table by six points.

They do so on the back of a 1-1 draw with Atalanta in Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, a result which meant City still have work to do to secure a last-16 spot.

But with a five-point lead in Group C and two fixtures still to play, that should be a formality. Sunday's encounter is a far more pressing issue and De Bruyne is looking forward to playing in a formidable Anfield atmosphere.

The Belgian said: "I prefer to play in that than when there is nobody. Professionals want to play in front of 50, 60, 70, 80 thousand people and it makes it worthwhile. You train all your life to get to the big stages. I want to compete for titles and to be the best, and to do that you have to win against the best.

"The media will make a lot of it, but we just do our job, keep calm and prepare ourselves."

City, who famously pipped Champions League winners Liverpool to the Premier League title by one point last season, have a poor record at Anfield.

City have won there only once since Boxing Day 1981, and that was in 2003.

"I don't care," said De Bruyne. "A lot of circumstances will decide the game. What can a player do with statistics like this? It's a game like another. We know it's a big game - Liverpool are ahead. We have to go back, recover and be ready for Sunday."

City will be awaiting updates on goalkeeper Ederson, who was forced off at half-time against Atalanta with a thigh injury.

His obvious replacement, Claudio Bravo, may also not be high in confidence after being sent off late in the game following his introduction as a substitute, and City ended the game hanging on for a draw with Kyle Walker in goal.

It all seemed so different from early on when Raheem Sterling rounded off a fine team move to score after seven minutes.

City failed to build on their advantage and Atalanta responded well to Gabriel Jesus' missed penalty before half-time, levelling through Mario Pasalic. From then it was they who looked the more likely side.

De Bruyne said: "We dominated (the first half) and it should have been 2-0 or 3-0, and the game is over. We gave them the opportunity to come back and the second half was difficult.

"These things happen, but after the red card, we did what we had to do. We weren't going to play stupid and openly, but we controlled it. It's a good point."

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