LONDON, BALIPOST.com – Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City’s Community Shield triumph against Liverpool was the perfect preparation ahead of this season’s duel for supremacy between the Premier League rivals.
Guardiola’s side drew first blood on the eve of the new campaign with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out success after a 1-1 draw in the annual curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season.
Sunday’s prestigious friendly at Wembley showed there is virtually nothing to separate the two teams after City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League crown by one point last term.
Raheem Sterling put City ahead in the first half before Joel Matip’s late equaliser forced a shoot-out that Guardiola’s men won through Gabriel Jesus’s decisive kick after Claudio Bravo saved Georginio Wijnaldum’s effort.
While City swept the board with an unprecedented domestic treble last season, Liverpool recovered by winning their sixth European Cup.
Aware of the serious threat posed by Liverpool, City’s celebrations when Jesus stroked in the winning penalty showed how much they relished the opportunity to inflict an early psychological blow on their rivals.
Jurgen Klopp’s side could easily have won in normal time but for a superb display from Bravo and Kyle Walker’s incredible overhead-kick off the line, leaving Guardiola to admit the Reds will again present the main obstacle to his club’s ambitions.
“There are two real contenders, Liverpool and us, to win the Premier League. (Manchester) United with (Harry) Maguire and the other players they bought, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham can be there,” Guardiola told reporters.
“Maguire is an excellent, top-class player. We were interested but we could not afford it.
“In the beginning of the season there are five or six contenders. Then the season will talk.
“I think it will be us and Liverpool, so it is good to see the team we will compete with, the champions of Europe.
“They are a top-class team, the difference is minimal, one point last season and one penalty today.
“That’s why it’s good to play them, to say ‘guys this is the team we have to compete against. That is what we have to prepare for’.” (AFP)