Pep Guardiola wants to “smell” his Manchester City players’ desire in the Premier League title race.
City trail Liverpool by one point after Jurgen Klopp’s side reclaimed top spot with a goalless draw against Manchester United.
Guardiola’s men secured back-to-back Carabao Cup triumphs after beating Chelsea on penalties in Sunday’s final.
Their attention returns to the Premier League as they host West Ham on Wednesday.
City boss Guardiola said: “When you are on top you can drop points but when behind you cannot, because after it’ll be more difficult.
“I don’t want to see excuses about tiredness, fixtures, schedules, or how many games. That is nothing.
“When you have the illusion to fight until the end, to retain the title, the power and the energy to give you that, it is higher than any excuses you can find.
“In the last two months the mentality makes the difference. I want to see tomorrow the desire that we really, really want to win this title. I want to see it. I don’t care about the way we want to play or the other things.
“I want the smell in the locker room. I want to smell in the beginning of the game, during the game, with our fans, that when one competition is over, really we want to win this title.
“I want to see their faces tomorrow, my players. After the game I’ll tell you if I saw something special or not.”
Liverpool have drawn three of their last four league games.
And Guardiola believes the title is both City’s and Liverpool’s to lose.
He added: “Still they are leading this tournament. So far, they were better than us, Tottenham and the other ones.
“There was one period in nine games we lost four – a month ago. Only one team was stable during the season.
“There are still 11 games to play, they are leading by one point. It is shorter than I expected a few weeks ago but still they are leading. We have to focus on what we have to do.
“It’s in their hands but our hands too. The only thing we can do is put on pressure, so they feel we are there and we are going to win and win and win.”