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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Pep Guardiola expects Manchester City to keep attacking strategy at Liverpool

Despite City's poor record at Anfield in recent times, manager determined not to change plans

Manchester City’s record at Anfield was wretched long before Sergio Aguero’s arrival, let alone Pep Guardiola’s appointment. EPA
Manchester City’s record at Anfield was wretched long before Sergio Aguero’s arrival, let alone Pep Guardiola’s appointment. EPA

Rancorous receptions for Manchester City at Anfield are not just confined to the bus.

While Pep Guardiola remains irritated by the way the coach – the wheeled variety – was attacked en route to City’s Uefa Champions League defeat last season, it was far from the only significant element of the night.

In a season when he scored 23 goals, Raheem Sterling was benched. He came on for the final 33 minutes.

His every touch was booed, as it has been on each of his other three returns to Liverpool since his acrimonious sale in 2015.

City have lost all four games. Sterling has not scored in any. He has been ineffectual amid the vitriol.

Alex Ferguson took to omitting Wayne Rooney to spare him the hostility of the Goodison Park faithful. Guardiola is adamant his selection for Sunday's game will not be dictated by the hostility of the crowd.

“I don’t do that,” he said. “I don’t think about him differently for this game because he’s a former Liverpool player. Of course Liverpool fans want him to play bad.

"Maybe it’s affected him before, maybe it hasn’t. But even if that’s happened because he was so young, he has to learn.

"Hopefully he will be here for a long time with us sooner or later, so he will go many times to Anfield.”

With Ilkay Gundogan a doubt and Kevin de Bruyne just returning to training, Sterling could be required.

The German came in for the Englishman six months ago, though Guardiola is adamant that was due to a change of formation.

“He didn’t start last season for the first time but that was for a tactical reason to do with Kyle Walker attacking more on the right side than him,” he added. “That was the plan: sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.”

Sterling is not alone in encountering difficulties at Anfield. None of Sergio Aguero’s record 207 City goals have come there. It is a rare drought for a man who has struck at least 28 times in six of his seven full seasons for the club.

“It is about being consistent every three days during 11 months,” Guardiola said. “So the NBA finals finish when we play Champions League quarter-finals.

"They play intensely for five or six months but we play 11 months. Doing that for 10 or 11 years that is the most important thing for a footballer today. That is why the big, big players around Europe do that because it is the most difficult thing."

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Raheem Sterling, right, has endured negative receptions at Anfield since his departure from Liverpool to join Manchester City. AP Photo
Raheem Sterling, right, has endured negative receptions at Anfield since his departure from Liverpool to join Manchester City. AP Photo

City’s record at Anfield, where they last won in 2003, was wretched long before Aguero’s arrival, let alone Guardiola’s appointment, last season’s defeats had similarities.

They were behind inside 12 minutes in both. They conceded flurries of goals: three in nine minutes in the 4-3 loss in the Premier League, three in 19 in the 3-0 setback in Europe.

If making a better start will be one priority, so is avoiding another damaging spell. “In the Premier League, the problem was that we concede three in minutes, from 1-1 to 4-1, we have to avoid it,” Guardiola reflected.

“We spoke with the guys and said ‘in Anfield in the first minutes, every time we concede a goal, you have to try not to concede a goal', but sometimes you cannot and they score.”

And while Guardiola is adamant he will not go on the defensive, he expects to concede.

“I think they are going to score,” he conceded. “You have to score. The other option is to stay 90 minutes back, waiting there and defend as best as possible and hope God can help us from above.

"It is another option but I don’t believe it.”