Pep Guardiola has warned that it is too early to concede the Premier League title to Liverpool, while calling on his Manchester City side to return to winning ways.
Three losses in four for the Citizens have seen them relinquish their control of the summit, having waltzed to glory in the 2017-18 season.
While City faltered, Liverpool stepped up a gear with eight consecutive wins in the league and now enjoy a seven point advantage over Guardiola's men, while Tottenham now sit second - one point ahead of the Manchester club.
The Catalan, however, has no doubt that there is a long way to go still before a champion can be declared.
“From January, February last season people said, ‘The Premier League is over’. To live with that is not easy," the manager explained to reporters on Thursday.
“One month ago people talked about [the match against] Liverpool and before we had three or four games.
“Football is that you are able to win a lot of games and you are able to lose a lot of games. When I was at Barcelona for one period I lost four games in a row.”
Defeats against Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester City in recent weeks have shattered City's aura of near-invincibility in the Premier League, having lost just one of their previous 30 games in a run stretching back to January 2018.
Now Guardiola insists that his team must return to form against Southampton at the weekend before they think of a title six-pointer against Liverpool to kick off the new year next Thursday.
“The less important issue is Liverpool, we have to think about Southampton," he added.
"I don’t forget who we are, how good a team we are, how exceptional these lads I have in the locker room are.
“The reality is we have lost three in four games and the last two. If you want to be real contenders you have to win again. If you don’t, it will not be possible.”