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Guardiola: City have not surrendered title – Liverpool are just ‘phenomenal’

Manchester City are the two-time defending Premier League champions, but trail the Reds by 16 points.

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Pep Guardiola is proud of his team despite their failure to keep pace with Liverpool (Martin Rickett/PA)

Pep Guardiola is proud of his team despite their failure to keep pace with Liverpool (Martin Rickett/PA)

Pep Guardiola is proud of his team despite their failure to keep pace with Liverpool (Martin Rickett/PA)

Pep Guardiola denies Manchester City’s title defence this season has been a weak one.

The Premier League champions for the past two years currently trail runaway leaders Liverpool by 16 points and manager Guardiola has long since conceded defeat.

Yet the team are still second and last season they became the first side to retain the title in decade.

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Pep Guardiola celebrates last season’s title success (Nick Potts/PA).

Pep Guardiola celebrates last season’s title success (Nick Potts/PA).

PA Wire/PA Images

Pep Guardiola celebrates last season’s title success (Nick Potts/PA).

Guardiola feels that compares more than favourably to other recent winners of the competition.

The former Barcelona boss said: “This team, what they have done in the last two seasons, especially the last one, was incredible.

“I have said many times what happens to the champions of the Premier League when they start to drop points and they cannot get the first (place). What happens with those teams? They fall down, they drop – and we wouldn’t.

“So Liverpool obviously will be champions of the Premier League, but they would be champions in Spain, champions in Italy, champions in Germany. They would be champions everywhere after 23 games, 22 victories, 1 draw.

In the recent past when Chelsea won the league, the next season, they didn’t qualify for the Champions League, Leicester the same and Chelsea again the same. When we won the league we repeated the leaguePep Guardiola

“In the recent past when Chelsea won the league, the next season, they didn’t qualify for the Champions League, Leicester the same and Chelsea again the same. When we won the league we repeated the league.

“In Spain with the points we have we would be there, one or two points behind the leader, in Germany we would be there, one or two points behind the leader, in Italy as well.

“But Liverpool are just fantastic, phenomenal, overwhelming. So we have to accept it and learn from that.”

City’s focus is now on the domestic cups and the Champions League. They host Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday before facing Manchester United in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday, leading 3-1 from the first encounter.

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Manchester City continue their defence of the FA Cup on Sunday (Nick Potts/PA).

Manchester City continue their defence of the FA Cup on Sunday (Nick Potts/PA).

PA Archive/PA Images

Manchester City continue their defence of the FA Cup on Sunday (Nick Potts/PA).

The Champions League then resumes with a last-16 trip to Real Madrid next month.

Guardiola has no concerns about the mentality of his players after their title blow.

He said: “We have two games now where we can learn about how you handle the knockout game against Madrid, this kind of situations.

“Every game we have a good argument (to play), a good reason, so why don’t we play for that reason?

(Manchester City are) one of the best I have ever handled or faced in my career for how they react in the bad momentsPep Guardiola

“We play to be better as a team or as an individual and, in terms of mentality, this team is incredible.

“Honestly, it is one of the best I have ever handled or faced in my career for how they react in the bad moments.

“The numbers, the results, not just in this season, I think are good. Even in the previous seasons I think it was phenomenal. That is why I am so proud.”

PA