(Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday his team’s rivalry with Liverpool is not toxic, despite last weekend’s Premier League clash between the two teams at Anfield being overshadowed by controversial incidents off the pitch.
During a heated match which the hosts won 1-0, Guardiola had coins thrown at him after protesting a disallowed goal while Liverpool later released a statement condemning “vile chants” relating to football stadium tragedies from City supporters.
City have not commented on the incident. Guardiola apologised for the behaviour of City fans but refuted suggestions that the animosity between the teams had crossed a line.
“I don’t think so. From our side, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t,” Guardiola told reporters before City host Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
“I didn’t hear the chants. If it happened, I’m so sorry. It doesn’t represent what we are as a team or a club.”
City, second behind leaders Arsenal with 23 points from 10 games, will look to return to winning ways against eighth-placed Brighton after their unbeaten start to their league title defence ended at Anfield.
Brighton are winless in four games under Roberto de Zerbi, who began his tenure with a 3-3 draw at Liverpool but has since seen his attack run dry in defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Brentford and Tuesday’s goalless draw with Nottingham Forest.
However, Guardiola backed De Zerbi to succeed in the Premier League and praised Brighton’s style of play under the Italian.
“I’m really happy he is here. I saw the last two games and he is already playing the way he wants to play,” Guardiola said. “His impact will be massive in the future.”
John Stones has returned to training and will be back in the City squad to face Brighton, Guardiola said. The centre back has missed City’s last five games after picking up a hamstring injury on international duty with England in September.
Guardiola remained hopeful right back Kyle Walker would recover from groin surgery in time to be included in England’s World Cup squad, and added that midfielder Kalvin Phillips was also making good progress as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
“John has trained last two days with us, tomorrow he is on the list, and Kalvin is much better as well,” Guardiola said.
“I didn’t speak with the doctors about Kyle, but I hope it can happen.”
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)