Pep Guardiola believes the Manchester City players who did not compete at the World Cup are in worse condition than those who were involved in Qatar.
The Reds’ 2022-23 season recommences after the World Cup when they face City in the Carabao Cup fourth round tonight (20.0 GMT). Liverpool had seven players who were called up for tournament, while Guardiola’s side had a total of 16.
Liverpool used the hiatus of the campaign to make improvements after enduring a stuttering start to the Premier League season. The squad jetted off to Dubai, with the likes of Mo Salah, Andy Robertson and Thiago Alcantara involved, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson (both England), Alisson Becker, Fabinho (Brazil) and Darwin Nunez (Uruguay) are all back in training.
City talisman Erling Haaland - who has scored 23 goals since arriving in the summer - was among four players who were not involved in the World Cup - along with Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Gomez and Cole Palmer.
But Guardiola reckons the quartet may have lost some sharpness.
“I had a feeling that the players in the World Cup are in a better condition than the players who are here, Sergio, Cole, Riyad, Erling, they miss a little bit, the players who didn’t go lack the rhythm,” said the City boss. “Those coming back have competed and trained every day, they keep the rhythm and we had holidays.
“Step by step people come back, today come back six players. First time, we are happy they are back, in general play really well. They play a unique experience. Let them try to come back as soon as possible. Work for the team and maybe four years they live another experience.”