Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City are so far behind Liverpool he will not watch the league leaders play Manchester United on Sunday.

The champions have a gap of 14 points to Jürgen Klopp’s team, who also have a match in hand, and the Manchester City manager said his focus is on Saturday’s home game against Crystal Palace.

“Being so far away means it’s not interesting to look at what Liverpool do. It would be nice to focus on Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace,” Guardiola said. Reminded that Liverpool face United the next day, he said: “Then Tuesday we have Sheffield United. It’s better to focus on what we can do for the rest of the season in the Premier League and other competitions.”

City have scored 12 more goals than Liverpool’s 50 but Guardiola denied being frustrated by there being such a wide gap between them.

“We are far away – we drop points, we concede and didn’t win games,” he said. “This game is about the results and I’m glad we score, continue to attack quite well but the reality is the reality, so no frustration.

“They’ve won 21 of 22 games and they’d be leading all the leagues around the world. The target was to catch Leicester [in second] and now it’s to maintain this. The team show this season that still we are going to [try and] do it.”

Since City won their first Premier League title in May 2012, they are the only team to win the competition and finish in the top four the following season. Manchester United, Chelsea (twice) and Leicester have all failed to qualify for the Champions League after winning the title.

“What happened to previous champions?” Guardiola said. “They gave up and didn’t qualify for the Champions League. [But] still we are there fighting, far away but this opponent is exceptional, we saw it in all the games.

“I’m so proud – now we are in this position we need to qualify as quickly as possible for the top four. The main target is to play well and prepare for the [cup] knockout games. All the players want to play, they all play well, and that’s the only way to maintain it.”

Aymeric Laporte is nearing full fitness following a long-term knee injury and is hopeful of returning for Sunday week’s FA Cup tie against Fulham.

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