Pep Guardiola challenges Man City substitutes to decide the title race with Liverpool FC

Pep Guardiola wants his Manchester City players to understand that the Premier League title can be won by a substitute as they go head-to-head with Liverpool.

Bernardo Silva was dropped to the bench against Burnley at the weekend for the first time since the opening weekend of the season, ending a run of 28 consecutive starts in the league. Ilkay Gundogan came in to partner Kevin De Bruyne and was excellent, scoring with a volley for the second goal to cap a fine performance.

Gundogan was Guardiola’s first signing at the Etihad and is a player crucial to the manager, yet has found himself on the sidelines more than he would like this season. The midfielder has given Guardiola a happy selection dilemma by improving to challenge De Bruyne and Bernardo for a place in the team.

“This is not a problem, the problem was Ilkay at the beginning of the season was not in top form. His weight was not perfect but now he’s back,” said Guardiola.

“It is not necessary to tell you how important he is for us and for me personally. In the other side, he has to compete with Kevin and Bernardo and especially Bernardo was the best Bernardo that we met two or three seasons ago and Kevin arrived in the last part of the season in a good moment. That’s what you have to try to do.”

“The players have to be ready as we look forward and see as a team what we can do. Sometimes playing 10 minutes can win us the title.

“Against Burnley, Nathan Ake made the same action [a goalline clearance] that he made against Arsenal because he is ready, and in this action he helped us to win in London against Arsenal and now be top of the league. Nathan didn’t play much this season but always he is ready. In this part of the season, that will be a decisive moment.”