MANCHESTER – Pep Guardiola said his Manchester City team will be poised to pounce if Premier League leaders Liverpool falter, following a comfortable 3-0 win over Wolves on Monday that left City four points behind Jurgen Klopp's side.
Two first-half goals from Gabriel Jesus, either side of a straight red card for Wolves' French defender Willy Boly, allowed City to demonstrate that they had banished their shaky December form.
The City manager was in no mood to analyse the table and insisted he is interested only in his own team's performances.
“We cannot play the games against Liverpool, we cannot do anything about them,” said Guardiola.
“All we can do is win our games and be there. We've spoken to our players about it and the fact we cannot control what they can do. All we can do is be there and maybe one day they fail. But if they don't lose, then they'll be champions.
“We've done incredible numbers after last season, but one team has done better than us so far. All we can do is be there until the end and the results will dictate who will win.”
Two weeks into 2019, City have scored a remarkable 21 goals in four home games this year and have hit 99 in all competitions already in the current campaign.
Jesus had scored just three times in his 16 league games coming into the new year but his two-goal performance against Nuno Espirito Santo's team continued his rich vein of recent form.
He scored once in the seven-goal FA Cup win over Rotherham and hit four in last week's 9-0 League Cup humiliation of Burton, and now has seven goals in his past three outings, although City's task was made easier by a straight red card shown to Boly in the 19th minute.
Jesus's opener came in the 10th minute after a magnificent 40-yard pass from defender Aymeric Laporte exposed the Wolves defence and sent Leroy Sane sprinting down the left.
The German's low cross was judged to perfection, as was Jesus's run, as he slid in and steered the ball into an open goal.
Boly's rash challenge, an out-of control, one-footed lunge at Bernardo Silva, may not have been malicious but was deserving of a red soon after.
“It was quite a bad tackle but I'm fine,” said Bernardo. “Yes, he did apologise at the end of the game. These things happen.”
With Wolves down to 10 men, Jesus's second of the evening, from a 39th-minute penalty, made it hard to see Wolves forcing their way back.
Again, referee Craig Pawson appeared to have made the right decision as Raheem Sterling played a one-two only to be brought down by Ryan Bennett's clumsy challenge. Jesus took a stuttering run-up for his spot kick, but there was nothing hesitant in his confident finish into the bottom right corner.
Kevin De Bruyne, surprisingly left on the bench after his angry reaction to being substituted in last week's thrashing of Burton, was brought on just after the hour.
And, in a lively performance, it was his cross, following a 78th-minute short corner that was deflected into his own goal by Conor Coady.
“I don't have a magician's ball to discover when I'm going to lose points,” said Guardiola.
“But I said to the players, 'don't look at the calendar for the Liverpool games - forget about it,' because normally when this happens, in my experience, you lose your games, and after that it's over.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)