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Little festive cheer for Guardiola and Man City

Last Christmas, Manchester City were able to relax in the comfort of a 13-point lead in the English Premier League but, after two defeats in three games, the festive mood of Pep Guardiola's team will be tinged with a little anxiety this year.

City's aura of invincibility has gone and, with it, the feeling that a second straight title for the club was almost inevitable.

The 2-0 loss at Chelsea a fortnight ago showed Liverpool were not chasing Guardiola's team in vain, but Saturday's 3-2 loss at home to Crystal Palace leaves City trailing Juergen Klopp's side by four points.

The festive fixtures will conclude with a meeting of the top two in Manchester on Jan 3 and the prospect of Liverpool extending their lead should focus minds at the Etihad.

City face a Boxing Day fixture away to Leicester, who on Saturday won at Stamford Bridge.

Then Southampton, revitalised with two wins under new boss Ralph Hasenhuettl, await on Dec 30 before the clash with Klopp's men opens the New Year. - REUTERS

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