Gerrard disappointed his integrity has been questioned over City match

Former Liverpool captain believes there is now a buffer between the teams of Klopp and Guardiola and the rest of the league

Steven Gerrard has said he is disappointed his integrity has been questioned before the former Liverpool captain takes his Aston Villa side to Manchester City but conceded the dream scenario would be if his current and former club profit on the final day.

If Villa take points off City they would hand the Premier League title to Liverpool providing Jürgen Klopp's side secure victory at home to Wolves, but for Villa the sole focus is on attempting to secure a top-half finish in the top division for the first time since 2011.

Questions were asked about how Villa would approach last week's home game against Liverpool, when they put in a battling performance before losing 2-1. Gerrard's selection against Burnley on Thursday was then studied for signs he was resting players for the City game, but only Danny Ings being a substitute was a notable break from the recent norm and that followed the striker starting four matches in the previous 21 days.

Gerrard said “the phone has been busy” in the buildup to the end-of-season finale, and raised the issue of integrity himself.

“In terms of Liverpool, I totally understand and respect the external noise and the questions that have been coming my way for some time,” Gerrard said. “They’re involved in a title race, and I spent a lot of time there. It is disappointing when people mention integrity and aim it towards me or Aston Villa or any of my players. We’ll go out at the weekend and give it everything we’ve got to try to get points for Aston Villa and our supporters. If that inevitably helps Liverpool, fantastic.”

Gerrard believes Klopp and Pep Guardiola, such is the strength of their respective teams, have created a buffer between them and the rest of the league.

"When I played there was a lot of talk about the top four and for a period that became a top six," Gerrard said. "But I think it has become quite clear that in the last two or three years that with Jürgen and Pep's consistency since José (Mourinho) left – he finished second at Manchester United just before he left – they have been the strongest teams for a long time now and there is a gap forming.

Different

“In terms of my experience being back in the Premier League, they have been the two best sides by far that we have faced. Very different: one tries to hurt you with positional play and possession, and one tries to hurt you with speed and intensity. They are both extremely consistent and have got top managers. They have both recruited extremely well over a period of time, and had a lot of time to work with the team so it is no surprise that they get the results that they do.”

Gerrard knows Villa face a difficult task given City have lost only twice at home in the league and have not dropped points in successive league games since December 2020.

“They’ve got world-class players and a top manager, but there is a lot of pressure on them at the weekend. We will go there as best prepared as we can, and try to make it as difficult as we can. Why? Because we want to be in a better place than 14th, and we need some more points.” – Guardian