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Home Sport Football European

Manchester City will flex muscles and go on attack against Liverpool, pledges Pep

By Ian Herbert

Pep Guardiola will not deviate from his Manchester City side's attacking approach despite admitting that their style of play is "perfect" for Liverpool.

City travel to Anfield tonight for the first leg of their all-English Champions League quarter-final, in what promises to be a high-scoring, all-action tie.

Liverpool came out on top the last time the two sides met, securing a 4-3 home win in January with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all on the scoresheet.

Guardiola agrees that there are lessons to learn from that defeat, but he believes the main reason City were undone that day was a madcap nine minutes in which the hosts scored their three decisive goals.

"You have to analyse the goals and the game," he said. "In the second half we were much better, but in the middle, 10 minutes, three goals.

"Of course we have to improve on that because (if that happens) in this competition you are out. You have to be good defensively but we have conceded few goals and few chances this season.

"That means we are solid, but I know the way we play is perfect for Liverpool.

"It is a team that attacks the space with Mane, Salah, Firmino. They are so good, with (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in behind."

Guardiola went on to suggest that his insistence on playing expansive, attacking football is a show of faith in his players, and claimed that adopting a more reactive approach may lead them to question themselves.

"If I said, 'Guys, we are going to do it completely differently from what we have done so far', my players would look at me and say, 'That guy is scared. The manger does not trust in us'," he said.

"Of course I consider the value of Liverpool. Of course I know the qualities and I am concerned about what they do. An arrogant person is thinking, 'It doesn't matter what they do. We are good enough'. No, I'm not talking about that.

"But you are thinking about if we are going to defend in our box for 90 minutes then make one attack. That is not going to happen. If we defend for 90 minutes it is for one reason, because Liverpool are unstoppable and much better.

"Why should we change when it is going well so far? This way, we have had good results.

"We believe we can do it but know sometimes we will have to defend, we have to be careful. We try to tell them how they are as a team but we try to impose our game."

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero will play no part as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, City ace Kevin de Bruyne (right) believes he is enjoying his most complete season.

De Bruyne is favourite to be named the Premier League's Player of the Year after enjoying a key role in City's campaign, which could be capped by securing the title this weekend at home to Manchester United.

And the Belgium international acknowledges he has reached new heights under Guardiola.

"It is probably the most complete," he said of his season. "I play like a central midfielder now and need to do a lot but the thing I am most happy about is that I can play almost every minute without any problems and play at a level which is constantly high."

Tonight's game pits De Bruyne against Salah, his main rival for the Player of the Year award.

The Egyptian is leading the race for the Premier League's Golden Boot, with 29 of his 37-goal tally coming in the league.

"To score that many goals in a season is unbelievable," said De Bruyne. "No one expected it but he hit the ground running and Liverpool are an attacking force and the three players up front play so well together, that is why they score so many goals.

"But the way he did it is unbelievable. He has had a great year."

De Bruyne is relishing a red-hot Anfield atmosphere.

"I expect nothing less. It is the way it goes," he added. "I like to play in big stadiums with big crowds. In the end that is what it is all about. There is a lot of passion in football and if you see the passion on the field you need to try to manage it."

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