Fernandinho says Manchester City’s desire to fight “like animals” is fuelling their Premier League title charge as they strive to hold off Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s City returned to the top of the table with victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The 2-0 win, from their game in hand, took City a point above Liverpool with three matches remaining for both sides.
It was their 11th successive league win and followed a similarly important victory over Tottenham, which came after the disappointment of Champions League elimination at the hands of the same opponents.
“We showed the desire in competing for every ball like animals,” said City midfielder Fernandinho after the United match. “I think this is the spirit of a team that wants to be champions.
“It was not just Wednesday — in general every game, especially last Saturday, after the ‘defeat’ against Tottenham, in the way we played from the first minute (City won the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final 4-3 but went out on away goals)
“If you look back to January, they (Liverpool) could have been 10 points clear after our game. We didn’t want that.
“We reduced the gap to four points and now we are one point up. That is the way the Premier League is going to be decided and I hope we can do our job and win those three games, and be champions again.”
The derby, settled with second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane, was regarded as the toughest hurdle left facing the defending champions in their run-in.
Yet with the lead just a slender one, Fernandinho is aware there is still little room for error.
Liverpool, who face already relegated Huddersfield on Friday, will likely be back at the summit before City play their next game at Burnley on Sunday.
The Brazilian said: “Burnley are always difficult. They have a specific way to play and it is not easy to go there. They drew with Chelsea last Monday.
“We have to recover as soon as possible and try to be fit and be ready. It is going to be a very important, very difficult game for us.”
Fernandinho is a fitness doubt himself after being withdrawn early in the second half on Wednesday with a knee problem. He was due to have a scan and be assessed ahead of the weekend.