Nicolas Otamendi has given due notice to Manchester City’s rivals that the Premier League leaders won’t let their unexpected collapse at Liverpool derail their title charge.
Pep Guardiola’s side saw their unbeaten start to the league season come to an end as Liverpool’s 4-3 victory inflicted City’s first top-flight loss in 30 matches dating back to April.
City had arrived on Merseyside with pundits predicting they would go through the entire season without defeat, but instead they were blown away by Liverpool, who raced into a 4-1 lead before conceding twice in the final moments.
Otamendi was part of City’s defensive meltdown as they failed to deal with Liverpool’s pace and movement.
But the Argentina centre-back is confident City, who hold a 12-point lead over second placed Manchester United, will put that behind them and get back on track when Newcastle visit Eastlands on Saturday.
“The season is going really well and we want to keep going in that way,” Otamendi said.
“We are very focused on every single game, and afterwards we try to recover in the best way we can and be focused for the next.
“I think that now I have an important role because the central defenders have to build-up with the ball and make the team work as best as we can. Pep has taught us how to do that.”
City are still firm favourites to lift the title, but Jose Mourinho’s team at least closed the gap by beating Stoke on Monday and United defender Phil Jones is adamant the race isn’t over yet.
Jones remembers when United were in a position as comfortable as City’s six years ago only to eventually miss out on the silverware after a late-season collapse.
“Football’s football, never say never,” Jones said ahead of United’s trip to Burnley on Saturday.
“I remember in my first season we were eight points clear, absolutely cruising, everyone thought there was no way we’d let the lead slip, and we lost it on the final day.
“People can say what they want but we’ll continue to be positive and push forward. It happened in 2012 to us so why not?”
United’s title bid would receive a boost if, as expected, they complete a deal to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal after out-bidding City for the Chile forward.
– Dismal sequence –
Third placed Liverpool showed against City they can cope without Philippe Coutinho following the Brazil forward’s recent move to Barcelona.
But Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum admits they will not be title contenders until they learn how to kill off matches.
However, having been 4-1 up with seven minutes to go, Liverpool conceded twice and faced an unnecessarily nervous finish.
“We gave them a chance to come back. That is the biggest thing we have to change if we want to compete for the title with teams like City,” Wijnaldum said. ”
“That is something we didn’t do.
Chelsea travel to Brighton without the suspended Pedro and Alvaro Morata as Antonio Conte’s side look for a first league win in 2018.
Trailing eight points behind fourth placed Chelsea in the fight to qualify for the Champions League, Arsenal could be without Sanchez for the first time when they host Crystal Palace.
The Gunners have failed to win their last six matches including an FA Cup exit at second tier Nottingham Forest.
Wenger, who says the Sanchez deal is likely to happen, has been linked with Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and West Brom defender Jonny Evans as he tries to revive his struggling side.
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated):
Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Brighton v Chelsea (1230 GMT), Burnley v Manchester United, Manchester City v Newcastle (1730 GMT), Everton v West Brom, Leicester v Watford, Stoke v Huddersfield, West Ham v Bournemouth
Southampton v Tottenham (1200 GMT)
Swansea v Liverpool (2000 GMT)