Pep Guardiola has apologised for chants about the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters from Manchester City supporters during their loss to Liverpool last Sunday but says he did not hear them.
The match at Anfield was marred by the songs from the away end and City fans scrawling graffiti inside the stadium in relation to the disasters. City had addressed neither of these matters publicly since the match.
“I didn’t hear the chant,” Guardiola said. “If it’s happened I’m so sorry – it doesn’t represent what we are as a team and a club. But don’t worry, we can behave perfectly [from] our mistakes. Not a problem.”
Objects were thrown at the City bus at Anfield, resulting in a damaged windscreen. Liverpool were fined €20,000 by Uefa in 2018 for a similar incident before a Champions League quarter-final. Also this week there were accusations – made anonymously – that Jürgen Klopp had stoked the fires with pre-match comments that were alleged to be xenophobic. Liverpool’s manager rejected those claims.
Guardiola, asked whether the relationship between the two clubs had become toxic, responded: “I don’t think so. From our side, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t.”
Liverpool remain seven points behind City but Guardiola thought before last weekend’s meeting that Klopp’s side would rival them for the title, despite the German saying they were out of the race after a poor start. “It looks like with my statement I believe more in the Liverpool team than their manager,” Guardiola said.
After City’s midweek trip to the league leaders Arsenal was postponed, they return to action against Brighton on Saturday lunchtime looking to close the gap to one point. It is the first of seven games City play before the World Cup. England’s Kyle Walker is a doubt for the tournament with an injury, and John Stones and Kalvin Phillips are returning to full fitness. Guardiola will not pick anyone he fears is protecting himself before Qatar 2022 starts in a month.
“He will not play if I smell this,” Guardiola said. “I’m really good at smelling this. Tactics not, but smelling I’m really good. And what is going to happen is that they are not going to play because they will get injured when they are not ready. When you are focused, you don’t get injured. When you are distracted is when you get injured.”