Pep Guardiola is proud of the way Manchester City have engaged in a seemingly relentless battle with Liverpool this season but acknowledges it will mean little if they do not retain the Premier League title.
Defending champions City trail Liverpool by two points heading into their game in hand at home to Leicester City on Monday, with the Reds winning late at Newcastle United on Saturday.
This tense tussle will go to the wire and Guardiola is delighted to be able to keep pace with a Liverpool side he ranks among the best he has ever faced.
It has made for a title race Guardiola considers his toughest, but he feels City will not get the credit they deserve unless they are victorious.
“It’s the toughest league I ever played, with the quality from the rivals, no doubt,” he said. “That’s why being there is incredible. Only one will take the prize and the other will be at home sad.
“Being here, we have to win to get more credit. I wouldn’t say 100 points was bad, but you get credit based on how huge your rival is.
“In my career, I’ve played against incredible sides, especially two: Barcelona with Luis Enrique and Liverpool. They are the best two I’ve ever faced.”
City will fall short of the 100-point total they finished last season with, yet Guardiola believes his side have matched the levels of 2017-18 again.
“The difference is Liverpool. We’ve done the same job, all the club, and the players, of course, are the reason why,” he said. “I think we’ve maintained the same level, we were able to do it.
“We are one point in front [before the Newcastle game] against Liverpool and I saw the way they played at Camp Nou and thought, ‘wow, we are at that level’. They lost one game in the Premier League and now they are in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
“But we have more than 20 points to the third position. I didn’t expect to maintain the level. When you get 100 points, everybody thinks we will not do what we have to do, a little bit less. The opposite happened.
“Every three days, in all competitions, we try to play and try to win. Sometimes it didn’t happen. We accept when we lose.
“Arriving at this stage with two games left, being there is the most satisfaction I’ve had as a manager and they’ve done it again. We will try to win the game and go to Brighton with it in our hands.”