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'No pressure' - Shaqiri confident Liverpool can handle being Premier League favourites

4:00 AM IST 31/12/18
Xherdan Shaqiri Liverpool 2018-19
The Reds have a seven-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table ahead of Thursday's Etihad showdown

Xherdan Shaqiri insists Liverpool can handle the pressure of being Premier League favourites.

And the Reds star has rejected the idea that the Reds can blast Manchester City out of the title race when they travel to the Etihad this week.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have enjoyed a dream Christmas, winning all three of their festive fixtures to open up a seven-point gap at the top of the table.

City, who leapfrogged Spurs to go second with a win at Southampton on Sunday, can cut the deficit to four with a win over Liverpool in Thursday night’s blockbuster clash. Klopp’s men, though, know that a victory, or even a draw, would simply reinforce their own credentials.

Liverpool were ruthless in brushing past Arsenal at the weekend, recovering from an early setback to win 5-1 at Anfield. They have now won nine straight league games, and are unbeaten in 21 stretching back to May.

Klopp, for his part, has been eager to play down talk of a first league title since 1990, but Shaqiri says that the players are not burdened by the scrutiny which comes with their lofty position.

“Pressure is everywhere in your life,” said the Swiss international. “Even in football, there is always pressure.

“When you are first in the table everyone comes after you, everyone wants to beat you, so every game is very tough. We just have to keep going, to stay at the highest level.

“I'm sure we can keep going, but there's a long way to go if we're going to be successful.”

City are one of only three teams to have taken points off Liverpool this season, and could even have had all three, with Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty in the sides’ goalless draw back in October.

Pep Guardiola’s side won 5-0 when the teams met at the Etihad in the league last season, but Liverpool were victorious there in the Champions League in April.

Shaqiri, accordingly, expects a fiercely-competitive game this week.

“For us we don't go there to take Man City out of the race, we go there for a Premier League game,” he told reporters.

“We go there to make a good performance first of all and try to win games. That's the only goal that we have. There are no other things in our minds at the moment. We just have to keep going, to work hard every day in training to win games. I'm sure when we keep going like this we are going to be very successful.

“We play very good football, very successful football and we are in a very good way to be very successful. Everything can happen this season but it's a long way to go. We have closed this [Arsenal] game, and in a few days we have another one to go. We are going to go again.”

He added: “Of course for you guys it's always a message when we win games but for us it's three points that are very important. City is also behind with Tottenham.

“Of course they're going to come after us and try to win, to grab three points. It's going to be a very interesting game, a good game. We're looking forward to this game to go and make a very good performance. We're also confident to try to win the game.”

Shaqiri smiled when it was suggested that Liverpool, despite their plaudits and their points and their remarkable unbeaten record, still had room for improvement.

“Obviously we play very good football,” he added. “You can see that on the pitch and that's also important for the fans.

“But it's also important to win games, to have three points in the bag every game. I think as a team everybody gives everything. The mix is very very good and you can see that.”

Liverpool will assess the fitness of midfielder James Milner, who has missed their last two games with a hamstring issue. City, meanwhile, have doubts over the fitness of midfield duo Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.