Pep Guardiola believes Liverpool will still be Manchester City’s main title rivals this season.
The Merseysiders trail City by 13 points ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash between the two sides at Anfield on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were pipped to the title by just a point last term and Guardiola does not think the Reds’ present position of 10th reflects their ability.
Asked if Liverpool were still the main rivals, Guardiola, whose side are currently second to Arsenal, said at a press conference: “Always have been, always it is, and will be. I know the quality they have, the character.
“If I answered this question with five or 10 games left I’d say I think Liverpool cannot catch the top of the league – in this case Arsenal – but being in the position we are and with the World Cup still to come, everything can happen.
“The opinion I have about this team does not change because of their situation in the table, not for one second. It always has been difficult in the years since we arrived together so it’s a tough game.
“The game will be dictated by what happens on the pitch, not because we are in front or behind.”
City played out two pulsating 2-2 draws with Liverpool in the Premier League last season but they have come off second best in their last two meetings, an FA Cup semi-final in April and the Community Shield in July.
Guardiola said: “I always had the feeling in Anfield that we behaved really well.
“Maybe in the last two games we were a little bit soft, in different circumstances, but you have to behave at the top, top level with and especially without the ball, and being active on the second balls and many, many things.
“But in Anfield, win or lose, we always behaved with huge personality. One of the biggest and nicest (stadiums) – it’s a joy to be there and part of this type of game.”
Guardiola expects Erling Haaland to be fit and firing for the clash.
The Norwegian, who has scored 20 goals in 13 appearances for City, was rested for the midweek Champions League game at FC Copenhagen, with Guardiola saying he was tired.
Guardiola said: “He was tired, and Bernardo and others as well, but they feel good and are ready for Sunday.”