Football

Guardiola: Chelsea, Liverpool have the edge

Pep Guardiola accepted Manchester City face a tough fight to keep pace with Chelsea, after labouring to a 3-0 victory at struggling Hull on Boxing Day.

City were unconvincing in a drab Premier League clash at the KCOM Stadium, but prevailed with three goals in the final 18 minutes.

Yaya Toure broke the deadlock with a 72nd-minute penalty, before Kelechi Iheanacho added a second and Curtis Davies turned into his own net in injury time.

The win helped City reduce the gap on Chelsea to seven points and Guardiola admitted there was no room for error after the London side won their 12th successive game earlier.

LIKE A FINAL

He said: "Sometimes, you play before (Chelsea), sometimes later - but it doesn't matter when one team has won 12 in a row. It's like a final for us if you want to be there until the end of the season."

City are next in action on New Year's Eve at Liverpool, another title rival whom Guardiola feels, like Chelsea, are benefiting from a lack of European football.

He said: "Liverpool went so close one year because they had one game a week and last year, for Leicester, it was the same.

"This time, Chelsea and Liverpool are the ones. We have played seven more than them - and important games like the Champions League - which is why it will be tough.

"We have to do absolutely everything to be there."

This appeared to represent a change of tone from Guardiola, who has previously stated the importance of style over results.

He also criticised his side for not being incisive enough, saying: "We forgot in the first half that the goal was there, especially the wingers. It was pass, pass, pass.

"But in the second half, (Raheem) Sterling got to the byline, he created the penalty, and created the third goal. I am happy to win again, especially away in Hull. I enjoyed it."

Guardiola also allayed fears of a serious injury to defender John Stones, who was taken off after just 17 minutes.

"Hopefully, he'll be okay for Liverpool. A kick, not ligaments or something like that," Guardiola said. - WIRE SERVICES

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