Pep Guardiola explained that Manchester City successfully shut down Sunday’s contest at Liverpool in order to avoid playing a side he considers the best counter-attacking team in the world at their own game.
After four end-to-end thrillers between the sides last season, there were no goals at Anfield on Sunday, partially due to Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss.
But City appeared to adopt more conservative tactics than they have in the past against Liverpool, with Guardiola conceding that their previous contests had suited the ‘Reds’.
“If we played quickly, they are better than us. If you make mistakes, they punish you,” Guardiola told his post-match news conference. “We like to wait, to build up the spaces. It is not easy.
“If it’s an open game at Anfield, you do not have one chance, not one per cent. They are so good with that – it is why we had Bernardo Silva, it was important to have that base.
“At [moving] up and down quickly, maybe – no, not maybe, I am pretty sure – they are the best team in the world at these transitions, defensively to offensively, because it is built for that. In that situation, they are much better than us.
Hailing City’s defensive performance, Guardiola added: “I’m so comfortable with the performance we have done. They had one shot on target.
“To do that at Anfield is so complicated, because everybody knows against which team we are playing. After eight fixtures, to be consistent and to be still there like a team…
“We missed a little bit of creativity but it is not easy because they are so strong and good. [Dejan] Lovren was at the final of the World Cup, [Virgil] Van Dijk is a top defender, [Joe] Gomez is in good form.
“They are the masters of the second ball. Don’t lose the ball in dangerous positions because [Sadio] Mane and [Mohamed] Salah have the pace. That is why we were so good.”