Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants his side to embrace the “privilege” of being in pole position to retain the Premier League title when they travel to Brighton on Sunday.
City go into the final day of the season one point ahead of Liverpool after a title race that has raised the bar from anything the Premier League has seen before.
Liverpool’s long wait to win the title could unbelievably stretch into its 30th year despite posting the third highest points tally in Premier League history.
With victory on England’s south coast on Sunday, City will hit 98 points, two less than their record-breaking campaign last season, but arguably even more impressive having come from seven points behind in January and refusing to budge in a 13-game winning run as the finishing line approaches.
“It’s a privilege,” said Guardiola on Friday. “Is a dream to be here, honestly I didn’t expect months ago when we were seven points (behind) against this Liverpool to be in the position that we are now.
“We have the chance to become champion if we win our game and that is what we have to do.”
The scale of the achievement in holding off Jurgen Klopp’s charging Reds was amplified when Guardiola saw his old side Barcelona thrashed 4-0 at Anfield on Tuesday as Liverpool reached a second consecutive Champions League final.
City could make history by becoming the first side to ever win the English domestic treble as long as they match Liverpool’s result at home to Wolves this weekend and defeat Watford in the FA Cup final next Saturday.
But despite all they have achieved this season to this point, Guardiola believes City must finish the job if they are to avoid being “destroyed” by their critics.
“We saw in the Champions League. (Barcelona and Ajax) lost once but everybody destroyed the teams, destroyed the managers, destroyed the clubs,” added Guardiola.
– ‘You have to win’ –
“Doing incredible, doing well, we know in which world we live and you have to win.”
City have racked up 157 goals in all competitions this season, but have had to grind it out in recent weeks, winning three of their last four games 1-0.
A wonder strike from captain Vincent Kompany, his first goal from outside the box in 12 years, was needed to see off Leicester 1-0 on Monday, while Sergio Aguero’s winner at Burnley the week before crossed the line by 30 millimetres.
Brighton’s survival in the Premier League was guaranteed by Cardiff’s relegation last weekend and the Seagulls showed they have not switched off for their summer holidays by holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates a day later.
“In one game anything can happen. One mistake from our side, one incredible performance from the other side, one mistake from the referees can decide the title,” warned Guardiola.
“That’s why we have to be more precise, be better and try to win the game.”
City could be boosted by the return of Kevin de Bruyne from injury, but fellow midfielder Fernandinho misses out.