Guardiola congratulates Liverpool

LONDON (AP) — It was a day Pep Guardiola saw coming a long time ago, as early as the first weeks of the longest season in the history of English football.

“Maybe we didn’t arrive with the same passion,” the Manchester City Manager said on Thursday after seeing his team’s two-season hold on the Premier League title ended by Liverpool.

“Liverpool played every single game like it was the last chance they have. And maybe we didn’t get that moment, especially the key moments in the first part of the season.”

So when the moment finally came, at the final whistle of City’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea at an empty Stamford Bridge, Guardiola was emotionally prepared for it.

“I’ve never thought, ‘Always we can win,’” he said.

Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola

Yet Guardiola could never have envisaged City losing its grip on the trophy with seven rounds of games left, his team 23 points behind Liverpool.

It was only two years ago that Liverpool finished 25 points behind City. Guardiola sent a “big congratulations” to Jürgen Klopp and his players after a game when City’s big flaw this season — defensive shakiness — was exposed once again.

“What we have done in the last three seasons is incredible,” Guardiola said, reflecting on winning eight of the previous 10 domestic trophies on offer. “And it’s so difficult to maintain this.”

So, four years later, Chelsea has again helped clinch the Premier League title for another team.

In 2016, it was a late goal by Eden Hazard that gave Chelsea a draw against Tottenham that secured Leicester the most improbable title triumph in English football history. Now, it is Liverpool which is the beneficiary.