John Stones admits a lot rests on Manchester City’s clash with title rivals Liverpool on Sunday but doesn’t see it as a decision for the Premier League crown.
he City defender wants to detach himself from the hype surrounding the much-anticipated duel because he already knows how important it is.
All attention is now on that game after City wrapped up the deal in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Atletico Madrid with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
Champions City lead Liverpool, who have won their last 10 Premier League games, by just a point from meeting at the Etihad Stadium.
Stones said: “We don’t let all the outside noise suck us in and we just focus on what we’re doing. The whole time I was here we were very focused and had tunnel vision of what was ahead.
“We’re human and we know what’s weighing on this game and how important it is to us, but every game this season has been a final for us, so we don’t approach it any differently.
“Of course there’s this extra excitement about the game and what it means, but it’s just another game. It doesn’t necessarily mean what will end up at the end of the season.
“I don’t think about it that much because you can get carried away. Of course it’s an important game, we’re first and second in the table – everyone knows that – but we have to focus on ourselves and our football and not change our football.”
City have had plenty of trophy experience in recent seasons, triumphing in a similarly close title race in 2019 when they won their last 14 games to overtake Liverpool by a single point.
Stones feels they are being given the knowledge that is now well within their reach.
The 27-year-old said: “This week is crucial for our preparation and we remain calm because we have been in situations like this before.
“Three years ago it was the last game that mattered, so we’ve been in those situations before and we definitely learned from that experience.”
Sunday’s game is the second of four games in an intense two-week stretch that will see City triple-hunting and could make or break their campaign. It follows the return leg against Atlético in the Spanish capital next Wednesday and then another high-profile clash with Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals the weekend after.
Stones said: “As a player, you want to be there at these big games. It’s a big couple of months ahead of us, there’s a lot of fighting to do and that’s what we want to achieve, so we’re excited.”
City had to dig deep to challenge their first-leg advantage against Atletico while the Spanish champions sat back and frustrated their hosts.
It was 68 minutes before Phil Foden opened the game as England youngster Kevin De Bruyne scored almost immediately for the only goal of a tense evening.
“We knew what we were up against and how they were going to line up and try to thwart the game,” Stones said.
“It’s always difficult when a team does that, but I thought how we move the ball and keep our patience throughout the game was key.
“We prepared well for how they were going to play, but it was about executing and I felt we did that really well.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/theres-extra-buzz-but-its-just-another-game-john-stones-plays-down-importance-of-man-city-vs-liverpool-41526613.html ‘There’s extra excitement but it’s just another game’ – John Stones downplays the importance of Man City vs Liverpool