Declan Rice claimed "pretty much every Premier League player" wants the VAR system kicked out of football after West Ham were denied a last-gasp equaliser against Sheffield United.

Rice looked like he had set up Robert Snodgrass' leveller in stoppage time at Bramall Lane, only for the video assistant referee to disallow the goal due to an accidental handball from the England international.

Although Rice accepts the rules implemented for this season were applied correctly, he believes it was a "crazy" decision and insists top-flight players would like VAR to be scrapped.

"Livid. It's a really tough place to come and play. I thought we did well. A point on the road here would have been good for us," Rice told Sky Sports.

"I've just watched it back before coming on camera. [The defender] has knocked the ball into my hand. I know I'm in a forward running motion, but he's headed the ball into my hand and of course if you're running with your arms out then it's handball in the rules but I've not intentionally meant to handball it.

"Of course you play on, Michael [Oliver, the referee] hasn't seen it. The VAR checks it and it's a real kick in the teeth.

"I don't think it's just me. It's the thought of pretty much every Premier League player. I don't think anybody wants to have VAR in the game.

"There's been so many decisions this season that have been crazy. Obviously sometimes it works but you see there, they're celebrating VAR like it's a goal. Football shouldn't be like that. The emotions there that the West Ham fans showed when we equalised, that's real emotion.

"I don't think we're all too happy with it to be honest, but it's in the game now and we've just got to get on with it.

"I just can't get over it, the way he's knocked it into my hand. I've not intentionally meant to handball it. I can't get over it, it's crazy."

Rice's sentiment was largely echoed by West Ham manager David Moyes, who believed his side, beaten 1-0 on the night, would have been worthy of a point.

"We're disappointed in the end that we scored a really good goal and it didn't count," Moyes told Sky Sports.

"It was a good goal, wasn't it. Whoever was checking it, I think they've got it wrong because it was a really good bit of play by Declan Rice. Where do you put your hands, tie them behind your back? I saw nothing wrong with it at all."

Chris Wilder celebrated signing a new contract as his Sheffield United side beat West Ham 1-0 - with Robert Snodgrass denied a last-gasp equaliser by VAR.

Manager Wilder secured a fresh four-and-a-half-year deal with the Blades on Friday and his side moved up to fifth place in the Premier League thanks to Oli McBurnie's 53rd-minute goal, which came after David Martin's error.

Snodgrass later squeezed in a stoppage-time finish after being teed up by Declan Rice, only for the goal to be disallowed for handball against Rice after a VAR check, to the dismay of West Ham and manager David Moyes.

West Ham substitute goalkeeper Martin – who replaced the injured Lukasz Fabianski early in the first half – paved the way for the home team's winner, with his dreadful pass providing John Fleck with the chance to tee up McBurnie.

West Ham's Sebastien Haller had a goal correctly disallowed for offside before Martin's fine save from Lys Mousset set the stage for a tense finish, which looked to have culminated in joy for the visitors with Snodgrass' late strike.

But West Ham's elation turned to despair as VAR spotted a seemingly accidental handball from Rice as Moyes suffered a first defeat of his second spell in charge.

Chris Wilder has signed a new contract with Premier League surprise package Sheffield United, keeping him in charge of the Blades until 2024.

United have impressed under manager Wilder on their return to the English top flight this season, and they sat in eighth place ahead of Friday's encounter with West Ham.

With the top five in their sights, United have been handed a timely boost by news of Wilder's new four-and-a-half-year deal.

"Naturally, I'm delighted to sign a new deal until 2024 and commit to the club that is close to my heart," Wilder told the club's official website.

"I am grateful to [the owner] Prince Abdullah for taking the initiative and offering this contract, we've had a great few years and hopefully we can continue the upward curve - let's see how far we can go on this journey."

Wilder, who started his career with the Blades and had two spells there as a player, took over as manager of the club in 2016, guiding them to the League One title and promotion to the Championship the following season.

He was rewarded for helping United reach the Premier League with a three-year deal in July last year, since when the 52-year-old's stock has continued to rise.

Sheffield United have completed the signing of free agent Jack Rodwell on a deal until the end of the season.

Rodwell had been training with the Blades, who have enjoyed a fine return to the Premier League.

Manager Chris Wilder confirmed in a news conference on Friday there would be an offer extended to the former England international, and the transfer was announced later the same day.

United made no mention of a longer-term agreement, although Wilder suggested there would be the option for the player to prolong his stay at Bramall Lane.

Rodwell has previously played for Everton, Manchester City, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.

Wilder came to Rodwell's defence as he met the media ahead of an FA Cup clash with AFC Fylde, with the 28-year-old unpopular with Sunderland fans after featuring sparingly on a lucrative contract.

A Netflix documentary portrayed Rodwell rejecting a mutual termination of his deal in 2018, before he left the Black Cats following their second consecutive relegation.

Wilder said: "I think there might be a club in the north-east whose supporters will chuck a load of stuff at Jack Rodwell.

"There's two parts to that story, by the way. I'm not a lover of fly-on-the wall documentaries - they're always looking for a villain.

"But from my point of view, that's history. All the boxes that I needed to tick and Jack needed to tick, he has done."

Mikel Arteta claimed his first win as Arsenal head coach against Manchester United on New Year's Day.

The end of a hectic spell of Premier League fixtures brought some belated joy for Arteta and Arsenal in a 2-0 home victory.

A fine day for the Gunners also saw rivals Tottenham beaten, but Manchester City and Liverpool made no mistake at the top.

We review the key midweek top-flight matches with the help of Opta data.


INGS AND SAINTS PREY ON LEAKY SPURS

Danny Ings is a man in top form and his goal on Wednesday - a ninth in his past nine Premier League starts - saw Southampton to a 1-0 win over Tottenham at St Mary's Stadium.

Only Jamie Vardy (17) can better Ings' tally of 13 league goals this term, while the former Liverpool man has scored eight times against 'top-six' sides since the start of last season - second only to Sergio Aguero (nine).

His goal meant Spurs have still only kept one clean sheet under Jose Mourinho in all competitions 11 games into his reign.

Tottenham lost their first league game of a calendar year for the first time since 2009, while Southampton are on the up, having won three of their past five home matches in the competition.

JESUS DOWNS FAVOURED FOES EVERTON

Manchester City maintained their recent dominance of Everton with a 2-1 win at Etihad Stadium, winning five consecutive league matches against the Toffees for the first time.

The champions also got the better of Carlo Ancelotti for a fourth time in the Premier League. He has lost to City more times than any other team in the competition.

Gabriel Jesus grabbed both City goals and now has seven against Everton - all of them coming in his past five league games - while he has been directly involved in 69 goals in his 75 starts for the club in all competitions.

With Richarlison responding for Everton to set up a tense finish, this became just the fourth match in Premier League history to see a Brazilian score for either side (excluding own goals).

ARTETA'S ARSENAL END WINLESS HOME RUN

After seven home games without a win in all competitions since beating Vitoria SC in October, Arsenal belatedly got the better of United.

In a further sign of the Gunners' struggles this term, this was their first win against a team currently in the top half in the Premier League in 2019-20, drawing four and losing five of their previous nine.

Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos got the goals, making Arteta the seventh Premier League boss to claim their first victory in the competition against United.

Defeat perhaps came as little surprise to the Red Devils, as they have a miserable recent record at Emirates Stadium, losing on four of their past five league visits.

RELENTLESS REDS RECORD ANOTHER WIN

There looks to be no stopping Liverpool, who moved on to 58 points after just 20 Premier League games this season with a 2-0 home victory over Sheffield United. Adjusting to three points for a win, the only team in top-flight history to match that outstanding tally were Manchester City in 2017-18 (also 58).

The Reds scored in a 29th consecutive Premier League game - the third-longest run in competition history - as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane found the net, the latter registering his 100th goal involvement for the club in all competitions (74 goals, 26 assists in 151 appearances).

Mane has 25 league goals at Anfield since the start of last season, with only Lionel Messi (29 at Camp Nou) and Kylian Mbappe (27 at the Parc des Princes) netting more at a specific stadium in that time.

Liverpool condemned the Blades to back-to-back league defeats for the first time since they lost their first two Championship matches in 2018-19.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson insisted he was unfazed about potentially breaking a record set by Arsenal's 'Invincibles'.

Jurgen Klopp's men continued their Premier League dominance with a comfortable 2-0 win over Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday.

Liverpool are 13 points clear at the top, having won 19 and drawn one of their 20 league games this season, and are unbeaten in the Premier League since January 3 last year.

Nearing the record of 49 straight Premier League games unbeaten set by the Arsenal 'Invincibles', with Liverpool reaching 37, Henderson said it was not something he was worried about.

"I'm not really bothered about that, I'm bothered about the next game, the next challenge and not look too far ahead," he told BT Sport.

"Then, we'll see where that takes us come May."

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored in the win over Sheffield United, who managed just three shots against Liverpool.

But Henderson said his side, who host Everton in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, could still get better.

"I still think we can improve. Last 10-15 [minutes] they had a good chance so we can't afford to give teams them chances," he said.

"There's still room for improvement but overall I thought the boys were excellent, the intensity was really good, especially with the amount of games over the Christmas period like everyone.

"But we've coped really well and we need to recover well for the derby on Sunday."

Jordan Henderson's performance in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday left Jurgen Klopp thrilled, the German lauding him as "absolutely incredible".

Liverpool were comfortable winners at Anfield, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane getting the goals in either half.

The victory allows Liverpool's unbeaten run to surpass a full year, as their most recent Premier League loss came on January 3, 2019 – they are next in top-flight action on January 11.

Yet, it was the performance of Henderson that provoked the most excitable response from Klopp in his post-match news conference.

The midfielder made four key passes, completed 92 per cent of his 131 passes and gained possession 12 times, seeing him continue a strong run of form.

"First of all, hopefully it stays like this," Klopp told reporters when asked about Henderson's recent performances.

"Yes, he's exceptional. Yes, he's outstanding. Gini [Georginio Wijnaldum] and Hendo [Henderson], because they had the biggest number of games, what they have played there is just incredible, absolutely incredible.

"I don't take that for granted one second. If anybody who is with us doesn't see the quality of Jordan Henderson, I can't help.

"Is Hendo the perfect player? No. Do I know anybody who is? No. Is he unbelievably important to us? Yes.

"He didn't like the position, number six, when he saw how good Fabinho is. I asked him, two or three weeks ago, when he played already exceptional in the position, 'You don't like the position, right?'

"He was laughing. Before that he played centre-half. I don't know exactly what Gareth Southgate [England manager] is now doing with him, which position he will play there, but there are a few options obviously.

"You see it in life, that character and mentality helps always and in this case especially. For me it's only difficult to speak about one person positively because I always feel I have to mention all the others as well. I don't take it for granted for one second."

Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Naby Keita will miss Sunday's FA Cup clash with Merseyside rivals Everton due to a groin injury he suffered before Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

Keita was initially named in the starting XI to face the Blades in the Premier League, but a problem sustained in the warm-up forced him to miss out, with James Milner taking his place in the midfield.

It is the latest in a long list of niggling fitness problems the Guinea midfielder has had to endure since moving from RB Leipzig, and the 24-year-old has only made five Premier League appearances this term.

He now appears set for another spell on the sidelines, though Klopp was uncertain of the severity of the injury or even how it was sustained.

"I don't know exactly what he has – it was the groin – but I can say already he will not be involved against Everton," Klopp told reporters.

"That makes it 12 adult players we have [available], plus the kids, so that's not cool, but we cannot change it.

"I have no clue how it happened, I think it was the last shot in the warm-up when he felt something. He came in [the dressing room] and was limping.

"Everybody who has played football has had this kind of injury and it's not nice, it's painful. I don't know exactly what it is or how long it will take, but I can say already he will not be ready for Sunday."

After Sunday's Merseyside derby, Liverpool are next in Premier League action on January 11 at Tottenham.

Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool's accomplishment of going a year without defeat in the Premier League as "exceptional" following the Reds' 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane got the goals for the Reds, who were dominant throughout at Anfield having opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

The victory means Liverpool will have passed a year unbeaten in the top flight by the time they are next in action on January 11, with their last defeat being a 2-1 loss to Manchester City on January 3, 2019.

Only two Premier League sides have ever enjoyed longer unbeaten runs in the league and Liverpool appear destined to claim their first top-flight crown in 30 years this term.

"It says a lot of positive things. I have not enough words for it, it is exceptional," he told BT Sport.

"We did not think about one year, 365 days or whatever, tonight. We thought about winning this game, that was the target and how it always was.

"The boys were 100 per cent focused, that's the important stuff. Keep this game unspectacular, that was the plan.

"Our New Year starts at the end of May, so we have season resolutions, not New Year resolutions."

The result restored Liverpool's lead at the top to 13 points and opposing manager Chris Wilder spoke of his admiration for them after the match, while also suggesting goalkeeper Dean Henderson was the only Blades player who did not under-perform.

"I wish Jurgen all best. I love everything about them. The physical and mental part of it is amazing," he said, before turning his attentions back to United.

"It was really below par performance, apart from the goalkeeper, he made two or three great saves and kept us in it.

"We had one or two chances but it was a really below-par performance. When you come into the Premier League you do expect one of these performances, so for it to be in our 20th or 21st game and it be the first time it has happened, I can take a little bit of comfort from that."

Liverpool will become only the third Premier League club to go unbeaten for more than a full year after Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

The Reds last suffered defeat on January 3, 2019, in a 2-1 loss at Manchester City, a reverse that ultimately cost them the Premier League title.

However, their response ever since has been nothing short of remarkable, with Thursday's victory ensuring they will pass the one-year anniversary of that defeat without having been beaten again.

The result was never really in doubt against the Blades, as Liverpool opened the scoring after just four minutes through Mohamed Salah and dominated thereafter.

Although goalkeeper Dean Henderson kept the visitors in the contest at Anfield, Sadio Mane finished them off just past the hour, converting at the second time of asking following a devastatingly rapid move that started with Alisson's quick distribution to Andy Robertson.

The match that actually began Liverpool's run was on January 12, 2019, a 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, meaning they are technically still 10 days off hitting the one-year mark from the start of the unbeaten streak.

In that time they have played 37 Premier League matches, winning 32 and dropping points just five times.

That form has Liverpool firmly on track for a maiden Premier League title and first top-flight crown for 30 years; they sit 13 points clear with a game in hand on their rivals.

Nevertheless, Liverpool still have some way to go to match Arsenal's record-breaking run.

The Gunners' 49-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League started in the 2002-03 season and stretched all the way through to 2004-05, beginning on May 7, 2003 and ending October 24, 2004 in a defeat to Manchester United.

That run lasted 536 days, though Arsenal drew 13 times in that period, meaning Liverpool are already close to matching their haul of 36 victories during the record-breaking period.

Liverpool still have Chelsea to overtake as well. The Blues, under the guidance of Jose Mourinho at the time, went 40 Premier League matches without defeat between October 23, 2004 and November 6, 2005 – 379 days.

Preston North End (23 matches, 1888-1889) and Nottingham Forest (42 matches, 1977-78) were both unbeaten for 378 days, meaning Liverpool's current run is the fifth-longest in terms of days in English football history.

They are next in Premier League action on January 11 at Mourinho's Tottenham.

Liverpool will become only the third Premier League side to go unbeaten for more than a year after Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane inspired Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United at Anfield.

The Reds last suffered defeat on January 3 last year in a 2-1 loss to Manchester City and, on the day before the first anniversary of that reverse, they had little difficulty dispatching the Blades to ensure they pass that marker.

Jurgen Klopp was forced into a pre-match change when Naby Keita suffered a groin injury, though it seemingly had little impact as Liverpool were ahead by the fourth minute thanks to Salah.

The solid performance of Manchester United-owned goalkeeper Dean Henderson – who was also aided by the post in the second half – helped keep the score down, but Mane wrapped the win up in the 64th minute at the end of a blistering move to restore Liverpool's 13-point lead at the Premier League summit.

The Reds were kept at bay for just four minutes, as George Baldock's slip allowed Andy Robertson to retrieve Virgil van Dijk's long ball and the left-back found Salah to convert.

Dean Henderson showed his quality soon after, however, producing a remarkable save to deny Salah a second as he turned Jordan Henderson's cross towards goal.

The left-hand post was the next object in Salah's way, as his teasing cross in the 61st minute missed everyone and came back off the upright – Dean Henderson grabbing it before it could then cross the line, though there was no stopping the Reds soon after.

Alisson quickly rolled the ball out to Robertson and he fed the ball up the line for Mane, who offloaded to Salah and received an incisive return pass into the box, before finishing past the goalkeeper at the second time of asking.

United should have pulled one back late on, but Oli McBurnie could not get enough on Jack O'Connell's cross and Alisson stopped it just before it could cross the line.

 

What does it mean? Reds' run roars on

Although Liverpool last lost on January 3, 2019, their unbeaten run technically began nine days later with a 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

With their next Premier League outing not until January 11, they have only one more match standing in the way of their streak surpassing a full year.

Salah simply super

Liverpool's Egyptian star did very little wrong on Thursday. Were it not for Dean Henderson's excellence, he would have almost certainly got a hat-trick, while he also provided the pass that teed up Mane.

Baldock's bad day at the office

The match started poorly for Baldock, as his slip allowed Robertson to set up Salah for the opener in the fourth minute. He never really recovered, struggling with the Scotland international and Mane throughout.

What's next?

Liverpool host Everton in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, when the Blades host non-League Fylde in the same competition. Both sides return to Premier League action the following weekend – the Reds going to Tottenham, while United welcome West Ham.

Jurgen Klopp accepts he may have "killed the winning mood" with his post-match team talk after Liverpool's 1-0 win over Wolves but said his side's performance left much room for improvement.

Reds players including centre-back Virgil van Dijk were critical of their own performances after a tight game against Nuno Espirito Santo's side, with the Netherlands international saying Liverpool "can do better", and Klopp echoed his captain's comments.

Liverpool have a 10-point cushion at the top of the Premier League going into their clash with Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday, but Klopp warned that a repeat of Sunday's performance will not suffice.

"The game gave us a lot of space for improvement," Klopp said of the narrow victory over Wolves. "I told the boys what they could have done better immediately after the game, so maybe that killed the winning mood!

"We have to work on performances. We should not start lying to ourselves that everything is fine when it's not. We have to make sure we improve.

"I am really concerned about different things. I'd like an easy life, but I don't have it, unfortunately."

In Sheffield United, Klopp's men face a side who have lost just one of their away games in the Premier League this season, that defeat coming at Manchester City on Sunday with a 2-0 scoreline.

Liverpool emerged from a packed December schedule of nine matches with eight wins and a defeat, including a 4-0 league victory over second-placed Leicester City on the back of Club World Cup glory in Qatar.

Klopp said the effect of the Qatar trip were evident against Wolves and revealed that the tests his players have faced since returning from Asia have forced him into some difficult selection decisions.

"Everyone was like, 'wow', coming back from Qatar to play against Leicester like this," Klopp told reporters. 
"Yes, that was really good but that's how it sometimes is, and the knock came three days later this time. We played Leicester, Wolves and Sheffield United who, in the form table, are the three teams behind us - we are playing teams in really good shape.

"When it's really busy you have to make changes, but you have to try to make sure that the pieces on the pitch fit together. When we played Everton at the beginning of the month and made five or six changes we were sure this offensive line would click together.

"The focus is always on the next game."

Takumi Minamino is likely to make his Liverpool debut in a Merseyside derby FA Cup clash against rivals Everton, according to Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Versatile forward Minamino, who can also operate in a deeper midfield role, is not eligible to play against Sheffield United in the Premier League on Thursday after signing from Salzburg.

Liverpool will have the same squad that battled to a 1-0 home win over Wolves when the Blades head to Anfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Matip, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Dejan Lovren not ready to return to action, while they have no fresh injury concerns.

But when Liverpool host Everton in the tie of the FA Cup third round on Sunday, Japan international Minamino is in line to make his first appearance for the recently crowned world champions.

"He will come into contention for Everton," Klopp told a news conference. "He's not allowed to play against Sheffield United.

"From the next moment, we're thinking about the squad. He was here yesterday and enjoyed it a lot, Sadio [Mane] and Naby [Keita] with the Salzburg DNA, it was really nice. 

"I'd like to be a new player in that group as they are really welcoming with open arms, it's really nice and he felt that. His English is OK, German is really good, that helps me but not the team. 

"We can talk, didn't too much yesterday but it's important he settles. We signed the player that was at Salzburg, just be who you are. We're looking forward to it. 

"We signed him, the guy who played like crazy against us [in the Champions League], be like that and it's fine. We'll see how it goes but in this period especially it will not be 15 weeks until we use him, it's not how it is. 

"Is he the finished article? I don't know. We start learning about him and it's what we want to do. He'll play but how many minutes I don't know."

Klopp, who indicated Liverpool are unlikely to make further signings in the January window, called for patience with Minamino.

"It would be crazy, really nice if you could give him time," Klopp added. "We have a really good team and offensively we have some of the probably best players in the world.

"He can play different positions. At the last press conference we spoke and my friends at the Daily Mail made a headline, 'he's really good, I have no clue where to play him'. 

"I wanted to say we have many options for him. I don't know when he starts or where but I don't have to know at this moment. We want to see his natural skills so will not fill him with information, we want him to be as natural as possible. All the people need to give him a bit of time.

"I asked [ex-Salzburg boss] Marco Rose and he was very positive, so he can start now, will learn English quick, speaks a little bit already.

"He was in the rondo with the English guys and there's a lot of talk, he didn't get a word with [James] Milner, Robbo [Andy Robertson], Trent [Alexander-Arnold] speaking. Not sure an English guy would understand them but he will adapt. Now he's here and he will work."

Minamino's arrival could push Adam Lallana down the pecking order with Klopp unwilling to give any update on whether the 31-year-old will sign an extension to his contract, which expires at the end of the season.

"Everything about Adam Lallana, Adam Lallana knows and I know. I'm really happy, he's in sensational shape," Klopp said. 

"He's a very important player at the moment and in the future, we will see. Most important thing is he is 100 per cent fit. He is in a perfect place."

Pep Guardiola believes VAR in the Premier League has been a mess, despite seeing his Manchester City side benefit from the video technology against Sheffield United.

City got lucky when Blades forward Lys Mousset had a first-half strike harshly disallowed for offside by the video review system, which then allowed Sergio Aguero's opener to stand despite referee Chris Kavanagh inadvertently blocking off John Fleck in the build-up.

There was no doubt over City's second goal, with Kevin De Bruyne tucking home to secure an unconvincing win - Guardiola's 100th in the Premier League.

Video assistant referee controversy has ruled in the Premier League this weekend, with Norwich City's Teemu Pukki having a goal harshly ruled out, while at Anfield, Wolves had a strike disallowed for a marginal offside.

With the officials coming under even greater scrutiny after more debatable decisions, Guardiola has weighed in.

"I said many times I have a huge list for VAR. Every weekend is a big mess," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"In other games it was a big mess. Hopefully next season it can do better."

However, Guardiola's counterpart Chris Wilder - whose side suffered their first away defeat of the season - was left much more frustrated.

"Yet again we had another goal disallowed by VAR, that's about eight or nine over the weekend. This is not a situation helping the game and the small margins," Wilder told BBC Sport.

"But I will leave that for everyone else to talk about because I have said too much about it."

Wilder said of City's opening goal: "I've been to see the referee and he has been honest about it. We make mistakes and I believe he made one too.

"It happened that quick and I thought he could have been helped by his colleagues a little bit.

"We talk about the new rule where if the referee touches the ball then he has to blow up, so surely if he is in the way and hinders us then he makes a sensible decision.

"If he made the sensible decision then I don't think anyone in the ground would have said anything about it."

Pep Guardiola indicated Manchester City are already focusing on next season after accepting there is no longer a title race in the Premier League.

Guardiola claimed his 100th league win as City boss on Sunday, as goals from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne secured a 2-0 triumph over resilient Sheffield United.

The win took City back to within a point of Leicester City, though they are still 14 behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who overcame Wolves 1-0 at Anfield.

With the gap so large, Guardiola has accepted City are no longer realistic contenders for the title, which they have won for the last two seasons, and instead said the main focus is on ensuring they improve ahead of the 2020-21 season while targeting success in the cup competitions.

"No. It's unrealistic to think about that," Guardiola said in a news conference when asked if Liverpool could be caught.

His side were swiftly back in action after a 3-2 defeat to Wolves on Friday, meaning they had under 48 hours between the two matches.

Guardiola said: "A team which has the numbers of Liverpool, why should we think about that? It's just preparing, play good and better to be as close to the top of the league as we can, prepare for the knockout competitions and for the next season.

"Every game helps us to improve for next season. Hopefully we can do better.

"The motivation is to improve because when we improve we win games and that is the way to live better. That is the best motivation for all of us. Even in the past.

"Now we recover for three days, thank you for three days to recover, and prepare for the next game against Everton. That is what you have to do."

Despite accepting the title race is all but over, Guardiola insists it should not take anything away from what his City squad have achieved.

"The fans can say or do whatever they want but they cannot deny that the team in the last three years was incredible in every single competition," he added.

"Football you can lose or you can win. We have injuries in very important positions but always we tried, even in the games we lost.

"It was a tough game especially because of the opponent, because of the 48 hours, and two hours after the Wolves game on the bus back.

"It's not the best for recovery against one of the most physical teams in the Premier League and we won it, so full compliments to the team."

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