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MILES BEHIND Pep Guardiola makes Liverpool confession after his side grind out a win at Southampton

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Pep Guardiola labelled the win “incredibly important” (Paul Childs/PA)

Pep Guardiola labelled the win “incredibly important” (Paul Childs/PA)

Pep Guardiola labelled the win “incredibly important” (Paul Childs/PA)

PEP Guardiola admitted his Manchester City side are “a long way” from title-winning form, after Raheem Sterling’s goal fired them to a tight 1-0 win at St Mary’s Stadium.

After Liverpool’s stunning 7-0 win at Crystal Palace earlier in the day, City needed to respond as they took on in-form Southampton and they got the win they needed.

Yet this is not the free-flowing City side that swept the opposition aside in brutal fashion as they won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2018 and 2019, with Guardiola suggesting they are still searching for their best form.

“We are a long way away, look at the table,” said Guardiola, as he reflected on his side’s position in the table.

“They still have all the momentum by scoring these goals. To score seven at Crystal Palace away is impressive. There is no doubt about how good Liverpool are, but I tell the guys to forget about it. We cannot impact what they do.

“Last season we came here and played incredibly well, but we lost. This time we come here and we don’t play so well, but we win.

“It’s a good result for us, it will help us a lot going into our EFL Cup game (against Arsenal on Tuesday).”

“We have to keep finding a way to win and that’s what we did today,” added Guardiola.

“You have to accept that there are times when you are not at your best and in those moments you have to win.

“Confidence is so important when you are lacking momentum and the team we faced today had that momentum.

“This result means we make a small climb up the table and we are defending so well at the moment, so that is helping us.

“We have to get better, we know that, but we cannot be thinking about Liverpool or any opponents. We can only think about ourselves now.”

Southampton started brightly and looked to stop Manchester City settling or controlling the ball, confidently chasing down goalkeeper Ederson and forcing some rushed kicks into touch.

When the chance came however City were clinical as Sterling turned a well-struck low De Bruyne cross into the back of the net in the 16th minute.

It did not spark City into free-flowing action, as they ground out a win in a manner that was not associated with this team in recent years.

Guardiola finds himself in unfamiliar territory as this serial winner has never faced a challenge as potent as that being served up by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Finding a solution to the threat posed by the Premier League champions looks like being the greatest test of his managerial career, with performances like this doing little to suggest he is close to uncovering the answers.

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