Kevin De Bruyne is relishing the prospect of a pumped-up Anfield when champions Manchester City travel to face Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday.
City are six points in arrears, having suffered surprise losses to Norwich City and Wolves in their pursuit of a third straight title, while Jurgen Klopp’s men remain unbeaten domestically.
Aside from needing to knock Liverpool off their unrelenting stride, City are also faced with overturning a dismal record on the red side of Stanley Park.
Their previous win at Anfield came in May 2003, while Pep Guardiola’s vintage suffered the first Premier League defeat of their dominant 2017-18 campaign on Merseyside before being dumped out of the same season’s Champions League by Liverpool.
The atmosphere created by the home supporters has been cited as a factor in City’s struggles in the fixture, although it is of no concern to midfield maestro De Bruyne.
“I prefer to play in that [rather] than when there is nobody,” he said.
“Professionals want to play in front of 50, 60, 70, 80 thousand people and it makes it worthwhile.
“You train all your life to get to the big stages. I want to compete for titles and to be the best, and to do that you have to win against the best.
“Obviously it’s a big gap, but four weeks ago people were saying it was Liverpool’s [title] to lose. I’m not keeping track of what people say – we play so many games.
“The media will make a lot of it, and people have been talking about it for the whole week, even before the Champions League, but we just do our job, keep calm and prepare ourselves.”
City’s midweek Champions League outing certainly proved eventful, with right-back Kyle Walker helping to see out a 1-1 draw against Atalanta as an emergency goalkeeper after Ederson and Claudio Bravo were injured and sent off respectively.
Walker enjoys putting himself between the posts during penalty contests in training but De Bruyne did not sense much of that bravado as the England defender prepared to enter the fray at San Siro.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 6, 2019
“He’s buzzing. Sometimes he jokes in training about playing in goal but obviously he will have been shaking a little bit,” the Belgium international said.
“He did what he had to do, and we didn’t give them many opportunities. It happens, and you have to improvise, and he did his job.”
City led through Raheem Sterling’s wonderfully worked seventh-minute goal and should have been in a far more comfortable position before the goalkeeping carnage ensued.
Gabriel Jesus tamely missed a 43rd-minute penalty – an untimely reminder of his side’s frailties from the spot given Riyad Mahrez blazed over during last season’s goalless draw at Liverpool.
“It doesn’t matter,” De Bruyne replied when asked whether City should have ended their Anfield hoodoo last term.
“It’s a different game, different season, with other players on the pitch. Everyone is at a different stage. We just have to prepare ourselves.”
On that barren run stretching back 16-and-a-half years, he added: “It’s for you guy to keep track, I don’t care. A lot of circumstances will decide the game. What can a player do with statistics like this?”