City leapfrog Liverpool as title twists continue
Manchester City responded to momentarily losing top spot in the Premier League by returning to the summit courtesy of a 2-0 win at Burnley.
Liverpool cranked up the pressure on City with a 2-0 win over Watford in Saturday’s early kickoff but City took just five minutes to find their stride at Turf Moor, with Kevin De Bruyne opening the scoring. Ilkay Gundogan‘s volley made it 2-0 on 25 minutes and with that, City ensured they ended the day where they began it — top of the league.
Guardiola’s champions face a season-defining showdown with Jurgen Klopp’s contenders next week at the Etihad but the City boss said before the trip to Burnley that his sole focus was on Saturday’s match.
City boss Pep Guardiola said: “The next Premier League game we will play against Liverpool so we know they are going to win almost all the games — hopefully not the next one — but we will try to do the same. It’s Atletico Madrid next, then Liverpool.
“When Raheem Sterling comes back from the national team he is full of confidence. The numbers…and he is never injured, like Riyad Mahrez, so they play consistently.
“People say experience when you are old but it works when you get good lessons and you learn from them. What you have done in the past doesn’t mean it will happen again. Every game will be like this. We need to play these games with this target and we will try.”
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Guardiola’s team took charge early on with De Bruyne grabbing his 12th goal of the season. Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Raheem Sterling were all involved in the build-up and De Bruyne smashed home to give his side an important early advantage.
Sterling caused the home side all sorts of problems and almost made it 2-0 soon after but he was denied by Burnley keeper Nick Pope. City were on top and Rodri was the latest to go close, skewing a volley wide when he should have done better. The visitors doubled their lead soon after though with a superb team move that involved De Bruyne and the impressive Sterling. The England international floated a ball over to Gundogan and he cushioned in a fine finish to put City in control.
Rodri hit one over and Pope made a good save from Gundogan as City started the second half as strong as they started the first, before Guardiola took off Phil Foden for Gabriel Jesus.
City, chasing a Treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, face Atletico Madrid on Tuesday and the second half at Burnley was more an exercise in energy preservation than anything else.
Sterling, one of City’s outstanding performers along with Rodri, found sub Jesus but he could not finish off and the Brazil international got even closer when he then struck the post.
Burnley, 19th in the table and four points off safety, face a critical match against Everton next week in the battle to stay in the Premier League, while City’s focus turns to Europe before next Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool.
Gundogan said: “It’s always tough to come here against a tough and physical side. They have a certain type of playing, we needed to be prepared for long balls to their tall striker and it’s about winning second balls and trying to create chances and scoring. Obviously the two goals in the first half helped us a lot.
“The next two to three weeks will be decisive but every game feels like a final now to be honest. That’s why it was very important to win today. You can’t drop points otherwise it will be punished.”