Kevin De Bruyne does not believe Manchester City have an advantage in the Premier League title race simply because they are the reigning champions.
Pep Guardiola’s side finished last season with a record 100 points, having won 32 and lost just two of their 38 matches, with second-placed Manchester United 19 points adrift.
However, four defeats in their last nine league games this term has seen City slip five points behind leaders Liverpool ahead of their clash with Arsenal on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium.
And De Bruyne does not think being able to draw on last season’s triumph will be of any particular benefit to City as they try to haul in Jurgen Klopp’s side, who are hunting a first top-flight title since 1990.
“I think Liverpool will be under some pressure because they have not won it for that amount of time [29 years],” the Belgium international told Sky Sports.
“But we have pressure because we were the champions last year and everybody expects us to be one of the title challengers. I’m not sure who has more pressure, but there is pressure on both teams.
“I don’t think knowing how to win the Premier League is an advantage. Last season, most of us didn’t know how to win a league, but sometimes that makes you hungrier if you haven’t won it.
“We are trying to repeat what we did last year and try to win as many games as we can. We will see where we are in two months. If the gap is close, it will be a tight race, and if it’s not, it’s not.”
City were beaten 2-1 by Newcastle United on Tuesday, although Liverpool were unable to capitalise fully, being held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester City at Anfield a day later.
De Bruyne insists he will not give up hope of closing the gap to the leaders but is also confident City can have a successful season without defending their title.
“I personally will go until we cannot mathematically,” he added. “You have to go game by game. I didn’t watch the Liverpool game but was happy when I saw they drew 1-1, like they were happy when we lost.
“We try to do our best but sometimes the best is not enough, and you have to take it. If Liverpool win the title with 98 points, congratulations, they will have done well.
“But there is still a lot of things to fight for. People may be down but there is still the FA Cup, [EFL] Cup, Champions League, plus we are still fighting in the league. That’s an amazing position to have at the beginning of February.”