John Stones has said Manchester City will call on their experience of the 2019 Premier League title race to see off Liverpool’s challenge this season.
The two teams meet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday separated by a point at the top of the table.
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The momentum has shifted towards Liverpool after they closed a gap which at one stage was 14 points but Stones insists City have already shown they have what it takes to hold off Jurgen Klopp’s team in a tight title race when they won the league on the final day by a single point in 2018-19.
“It came down to the last game [in 2019], so we’ve been in these situations before and the experience of that time we definitely learned from,” Stones said. “We went 14 games unbeaten and we know every game is so important to us.
“We don’t get sucked into all the outside noise and concentrate on what we do. That’s all the time I’ve been here we’ve been very focused and tunnel vision on what’s ahead of us.
“Everyone in that dressing room wants to come out on the winning side and we’ll do everything in our power to do that.”
The clash at the Etihad is being billed as a title decider but, with eight games still to play, Stones has rejected the suggestion that the winner on Sunday is certain to go on and lift the trophy in May.
“I don’t think so,” the England defender added. “I don’t think about it too much like that because you can get carried away.
“Obviously it’s an important game, we’re 1st and 2nd in the table — everyone knows that — but we have to concentrate on us and how we play our football and don’t change our football.
“We’re human beings and we know what is riding on this game and how important it is to us but every game this season has been a final to us so we don’t approach this any differently.
“There’s obviously that extra buzz about the game personally and what it means but it is just another game. It doesn’t necessarily mean what will end up by the end of the season.”
City’s meeting with Liverpool this weekend will be the second installment of a pivotal 10 days for Guardiola’s team. It started with the 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Tuesday and also includes the return trip to Madrid next week and the FA Cup semifinal with Liverpool at Wembley on Apr. 16.
“This week is vital for us in how we prepare and we stay calm about that because we’ve been in situations like this before,” Stones said. “We try to keep on a winning run and keep as many clean sheets as we can and keep improving as individuals and as a team.
“We approach it the same as we do Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Champions League, whatever, whoever we play and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful over the years especially, with the respect we give to the opposition and how we concentrate on ourselves and know what we can affect, which is how we train this week, prepare this week mentally and physically and give everything for ourselves and our team-mates.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism