LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26, 2018: Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Shaqiri on Man City match and Van Dijk on protecting Salah

Midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri insists Liverpool do not view their forthcoming heavyweight clash with Manchester City as a chance to knock their rivals out of the title race.

The Premier League’s top two face off at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday with Pep Guardiola’s defending champions trailing by seven points.

It is a match City cannot afford to lose – and realistically have to win considering the relentless progress of Liverpool, who remain unbeaten 20 matches into the season.

And while it would be a huge statement to inflict a fourth defeat of the campaign on City and leave them trailing by 10 points, Shaqiri said the equation was not in their thoughts.

“We don’t go there to take Man City out of the race, we go there for a Premier League game,” he said.

“We go there to make a good performance first of all and try to win games. That’s the only goal that we have.

“There are not other things in our minds at the moment. We just have to keep going, to work hard every day in training to win games.

“I’m sure when we keep going like this we are going to be very successful.

“Everything can happen this season but it’s a long way to go.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 10, 2018: Liverpool's James Milner walks out before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Of course for you guys (the media) it’s always a message when we win games but for us it’s three points that are very important.

“Of course they’re going to come after us and try to win, to grab three points.

“The pressure is always here. If you are top of the table, everybody is coming after you, everybody wants to beat you.

“In the end for us it’s not really important where we stand because we want to win games and we want to win games until the end.”

Liverpool showed in a first-half 30-minute spell against Arsenal they were still capable of blowing away opponents like they did last season as they came from behind to score four in quick succession on their way to a 5-1 win.

Most of their matches have not been as explosive this season as they have adopted a more controlled approach which has ultimately been, so far, more successful.

What has also been evident is the team spirit which manager Jurgen Klopp has engendered and that was typified by one incident in the tunnel as the players walked off at the interval against Arsenal.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 24, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gunners defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos accused Mohamed Salah of diving – something which had been levelled at the Egypt international by Newcastle on Boxing Day when he was awarded a soft spot-kick – to win the penalty for Liverpool’s fourth on the stroke of half-time.

Virgil Van Dijk took exception and sprang to his team-mate’s defence and the pair had to be separated by other players.

“I saw that he went to Mo and was saying that he dived. He was attacking him a bit, but I wanted to say he didn’t dive,” said the Netherlands captain.

“Obviously everyone came around us and it looked like we were fighting or something but we weren’t.

“I’m protecting my team-mates and that’s normal, that’s how everyone should react and that’s what we all need to do, to back each other. That’s what I definitely do.”