Manchester City will look to bounce back from their Champions League heartache as they host Liverpool in a crucial encounter this weekend.
City are still licking their wounds after surrendering a 5-3 first-leg advantage to crash out of Europe’s top club competition at the last-16 stage in Monaco in midweek.
But there is little time to dwell on the loss with the battle for places in next season’s Champions League so tight.
City dropped points in their last Premier League outing against Stoke and can ill afford to give up more ground to top-four rivals Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
“Qualification for the Champions League will be tough until the last game of the Premier League,” manager Pep Guardiola said.
“Except of course for (leaders) Chelsea, the other contenders will be there until the end of the season.
“It will be good to see how everybody reacts, myself and the players, after going out of the Champions League.
“It’s an important game before the national team break against one of the best teams in the Premier League.”
Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premier League title faded during a poor January but three wins in their last four games have boosted their chances of a top-four finish.
They will go into the game just a point behind third-placed City, although they have played a game more.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp also has the slight edge in head-to-head meetings with Guardiola following the Reds’ victory at Anfield in December.
Klopp leads Guardiola 5-4 with the pair having also crossed paths during their time in Germany with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively.
Guardiola said: “He’s a top coach. He spots little processes and he has an attacking side. It’s about winning the ball in attack but when they lose the ball immediately it’s a transition from offensive to defensive to win the ball back.
“When they want to attack they feel comfortable. When teams defend deep sometimes they have more problems but they are a top team, he is a top trainer. I respect him a lot.
“They have huge talent, English players and foreign players, so I think they are a really good team.
“It’s a good test because against the teams at the top of the Premier League, Liverpool make the best results.”
City’s frailties at the back were again exposed in Monaco, with question marks over their defending for each of the goals they conceded in the 3-1 loss.
Yet Guardiola insists drastic changes are not necessary and is more concerned about their failure to take chances at the other end.
He said: “Of course we have to defend better but I think in 12-15 minutes against Monaco we created five chances and few teams can do that.
“We got to the byline and in just one pass we can score a goal but we missed those chances and that’s happened a lot of times. When we miss these type of chances this creates the problems.
“The problem in the first half was we didn’t create against Monaco and that’s what I’m most worried about. Not because of the chances they had.”