BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are playing even better than their record-breaking title-winning season, even if they finish second to Liverpool.
Guardiola was delighted with their performance on the south coast, hugging his players as he marched onto the pitch at full-time and said they are performing even better than when they reached a 100 points to win last season's title.
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"In the way we play, we play much much better," Guardiola told a news conference.
"We want the league and we will be disappointed if that does not happen but we cannot forget the contender we face with Liverpool. Of course, we want to win the Premier League and I feel the players show me every single day they want to win it.
"But we have played nine-or-10 more games than Liverpool -- that is a lot of minutes in our legs. We play in four competitions and we are still there. That's why I'm so happy."
City are aiming to become the first side to defend their title in a decade and captain Vincent Kompany believes that no defending champions have faced a tougher rival than Jurgen Klopp's team.
"We're playing as well as we can, nothing is going to take away from that," Kompany told reporters. "If Liverpool ends up being even better than us then that's credit to Liverpool. It can't be something that we've done wrong in this case, not with the amount of points we've got at this point and the way we've played so far and with the way we've approached every game.
"I think we're doing as good as a team can do but sometimes, if you want to talk about having back-to-back seasons, I'm sure that not a lot of teams had to face the sort of opposition we have now with Liverpool.
"Liverpool are having the best season I've ever known them to have since I've been following the Premier League, so it's a strong team and we just need to raise our level every time."
After already securing the Carabao Cup, City are still fighting in three competitions and Guardiola will need to draw on his entire squad.
De Bruyne hopes his hamstring injury is not too serious but admitted it would be easier if they had the same huge lead they had at the equivalent stage last year.
"I preferred last year because we knew [around this time] last year that we were probably going to win it," De Bruyne said. "But in the end, we cannot do anything about it.
"They are doing incredibly well and we are the same. We are a little bit below points-wise what we did last year. But still the points we have now -- 71 I think -- it's unbelievable. So we just try to keep going and in the end we will see how much we need.
On another injury setback, the Belgium international added: "It happens. I came back and I needed some time because I've been out for six months. But the last two months I've almost played everything and I've felt fine.
"Now, I've felt a little bit but we've had a tough 10 days with four games. Maybe it's that. But we have some injuries and I don't think it's too bad."