Pep Guardiola says Manchester City risk dropping out of the European qualification spots if they lose their fighting spirit, despite the Premier League title slipping further from their grasp.
They remain 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool after throwing away a two-goal lead at Wolves on Friday, falling 3-2 to the home side.
Raheem Sterling had scored twice after Ederson’s early red card but goals from Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez and Matt Doherty flipped the game on its head and brought Wolves within eight points of City in third.
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“We can’t give up otherwise we won’t be in Europe,” Guardiola told reporters after the game.
“There’s less than 40 hours until we play [at home to Sheffield United]. We have to prepare.
“Our response is always good; we are used to being top and now we are fighting.”
On the gap to Liverpool, he told Amazon Prime: “It has been big for a long time.
“It is not realistic to think about the title race. I have been asked the question for a long time and it is the same answer.”
Star man Kevin De Bruyne was brought off late in the game with City still defending a slender lead, after Sergio Aguero’s return from injury had been cut short to bring on backup goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Asked if De Bruyne had been brought off due to the short turnaround before Sunday’s game, Guardiola replied: “We have less than 48 hours for our next game.
“It is always what it is. We could not defend it at the end, they fought incredibly, ran until the last minute. The goals could have been avoided.
“They [my players] feel no regrets, they did everything to defend the result.”
The game was heavily impacted by VAR, as the controversial system continues to cause debate with each passing week of Premier League football.
City were awarded a first-half penalty as VAR adjudged Riyad Mahrez to have been fouled. Sterling’s spot-kick was saved by Rui Patricio, but a retake was ordered because of encroachment.
Patricio saved again, but Sterling tapped in the open goal on the rebound. When asked whether he thought VAR had helped or hindered referee Martin Atkinson, Guardiola was evasive.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t see it. Better not to talk about VAR.”