'If we drop points then it's over, it would be almost impossible' – Guardiola throws down gauntlet to City players

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City must beat Liverpool on Thursday to sustain their Premier League title bid.

City shook off consecutive defeats to coast past Southampton 3-1 at St Mary’s on Sunday, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero on target and James Ward-Prowse netting an own goal.

That south coast victory set up a pivotal title battle with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium, with second-placed City trailing the league leaders by seven points.

And City boss Guardiola has conceded only a win on Thursday will be enough to keep his side in the hunt to retain their crown.

“With the position of Liverpool, if we drop points then it is over, it is finished; it would be almost impossible,” said Guardiola.

“Of course they are going to drop points but not too many. If you want to be there as far as possible until the end we have to remember what happened last season, and this as well, apart from the last few days.

“We never forget who we are. Sometimes you have to kick your face, be a little bit stubborn and ask ‘guys, what happened?’.

“Maybe I’m wrong but all players everywhere want to do well. Sometimes you need to realise that wanting to do well is not enough. You have to try it again.”

Liverpool stretched their unbeaten start to 20 matches with Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal at Anfield, laying down the gauntlet to City.

Guardiola’s men had faltered badly with consecutive losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester, following shortly on from their 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

City eased past Southampton on Sunday in a bid to close the gap on Liverpool and turn the second half of the season into a genuine title race however.

And that left Guardiola pleased with his players’ response.

“We are not here to send a message, Liverpool know what they have to do, we know what we have to do on Thursday,” said Guardiola.

“I know the distance is big, seven points, especially because they’re so solid and consistent. But we’re at home, hopefully our extra help from our people at the Etihad can help, they can support us.

“In the winter break everyone loses games, except for Liverpool in this period, but everyone drops points, that’s normal.

“We spoke about our responsibilities and what we are as a team and they did it today, and that was fantastic.

“The feeling today was a little bit more aggressive, we were more aggressive to attack to the goal; and of course Fernandinho helped us a lot in that position.”

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fired a fine goal for Southampton only to be sent off late on for a two-footed tackle on fit-again Fernandinho.

That dismissal left Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl frustrated to lose his skipper and a key midfielder for a potential four-match suspension.

“The worst thing that could happen today would be that we lose a player,” said Hasenhuttl.

“The red card was the worst moment of the evening; it hurts us a lot, it’s a silly tackle when the game is gone.

“We will miss him, he’s our best midfielder at the club. That’s really hurt me a lot.

“I think he’s normally a very clever and very smart player. He’s one of the guys who loves to play in the philosophy we play now and that’s why we need him so much.”

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