London: Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City’s Community Shield triumph against Liverpool was the perfect preparation ahead of this season’s duel for supremacy between the Premier League rivals.
Guardiola’s side drew first blood on the eve of the new campaign with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out success after a 1-1 draw in the annual curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season.
Sunday’s prestigious friendly at Wembley showed there is virtually nothing to separate the two teams after City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League crown by one point last term.
Guardiola admitted the Reds will again present the main obstacle to his club’s ambitions. “There are two real contenders, Liverpool and us, to win the Premier League. (Manchester) United with (Harry) Maguire and the other players they bought, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham can be there,” Guardiola told reporters.
“Maguire is an excellent, top-class player. We were interested but we could not afford it. In the beginning of the season there are five or six contenders. Then the season will talk,” he said.
“Liverpool are a top-class team, the difference is minimal, one point last season and one penalty today. That’s why it’s good to play them, to say ‘guys this is the team we have to compete against. That is what we have to prepare for’,” he said.
Guardiola was encouraged with the way his team dominated in the first half. “The hunger is there for this part of the season. The game was tremendously demanding. We had a really good first half but after that we couldn’t control the switch of play, the long balls,” he said.
While Liverpool finished a difficult pre-season — including several defeats and the delayed return of their top stars from international duty, coach Jurgen Klopp said his side’s dominant second half performance showed they will be a thorn in City’s side....