Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne believes that the Premier League champions are not on the same level that they were last year as they continue to fight Liverpool in a fierce title race.
Pep Guardiola’s Citizens are looking to retain their top-flight crown for the first time in their history but currently find themselves trailing Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.
The Merseyside outfit have never won the first division title since the beginning of the Premier League era but currently have the edge in the race for the trophy.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the Sky Blues’ vital clash with fellow top six side Arsenal on Sunday, Belgium international De Bruyne says that he feels City are below the standards they set last year - and that if Liverpool depose them as title-holders, they will be worthy champions.
“This year it is a little more difficult because teams are more compact, and their plans are probably better than they were last year,” the 27-year-old stated.
“Last year we would have won or drawn these games with late winners, but we were not able to do that this year. That's just the way it is, the level is so high from every team that the margin of error is so small.
“If it was last season with the points we have now, we would be first, but somebody is better than us at the moment, so you have to say congratulations. We know how hard it is.”
“We try to do our best but sometimes the best is not enough, and you have to take it. If Liverpool win the title with 98 points, congratulations, they will have done well.
“But there is still a lot of things to fight for. People may be down but there is still the FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League, plus we are still fighting in the league - that's an amazing position to have at the beginning of February.”
De Bruyne further stressed that neither side was facing greater burdens than the other, with both highly aware of the magnitude of what they could achieve this year.
“I think Liverpool will be under some pressure because they have not won it for that amount of time [29 years],” the 27-year-old added.
“But we have pressure because we were the champions last year and everybody expects us to be one of the title challengers. I'm not sure who has more pressure, but there is pressure on both teams
“I don't think knowing how to win the Premier League is an advantage, last season most of us didn't know how to win a league but sometimes that makes you hungrier if you haven't won it.
“We are trying to repeat what we did last year and try to win as many games as we can. We will see where we are in two months, if the gap is close it will be a tight race and if it's not, it's not.”