By Andy Hampson, PA
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed Ruben Dias, John Stones and Kyle Walker will play no further part in a title run-in he feels “everyone in this country” wants Liverpool to win.
The triple injury blow has taken the gloss off what was otherwise a “perfect afternoon” for City as they thrashed Newcastle 5-0 on Sunday to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Dias was forced off at half-time at the Etihad Stadium with a muscular problem, joining Stones and Walker, who were already sidelined with thigh and ankle injuries respectively, on the casualty list.
Guardiola said: “Ruben, Kyle and John are out for the end of the season. Next pre-season maybe they will be ready.”
City had been given the opportunity to earn some breathing space at the top of the table after quadruple-chasing Liverpool were held to a draw by Tottenham on Saturday.
The two sides have been locked in a tight title race but with just three games left to play, and a now superior goal difference, City look to be in firm control.
Afterwards Guardiola took aim at what he perceived as favourable coverage of the Merseysiders’ challenge.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) May 8, 2022
Speaking on beIN SPORTS, the Spaniard said: “One week ago, we were in front, (but) everyone in this country supports Liverpool, the media and everyone.
“Of course Liverpool have an incredible history, in Europe and competitions. Not in Premier League, just won one in 30 years. But it is not a problem at all. The situation is what it is.”
City were impressive as they swept Newcastle aside in a superb response to their heartbreaking Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid in midweek.
Raheem Sterling struck twice while Rodri, Aymeric Laporte and Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet.
“I am very pleased,” said Guardiola, whose side now travel to Wolves on Wednesday. “It was a perfect afternoon.
“Just before the start of the game I felt the crowd were disappointed but not grumpy or upset about who we are as a team.
“What we have done today we have done the last five years every three days. Three more points, three games left, one competition to play.
“We have big problems at the back because we have just three defenders for these three games but we are going to try to do it.
“Wednesday becomes absolutely a final, final, final for us. If we are able to win maybe we are able to arrive in the last game, at home, with our people and try to make back-to-back (titles).
“Still, of course, everything can happen in football. If it can happen in 56 seconds three days ago it can happen in three games.”
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe conceded his side were beaten by the better team but denied they were already thinking about their summer holidays having pulled well clear of the relegation battle.
Howe said: “We tried to be positive but you can’t make individual mistakes here. If you do that you’ll concede, and we did.
“Those small details matter and they punished us. There’s no better learning curve than playing Liverpool (last week) and Manchester City. They’ve taught us a lot about potential areas we need to improve.
“We can’t be too negative about today. I can assure everybody we are not on the beach. We have just played two world-class teams and got beaten.”