Raheem Sterling has warned Liverpool to brace themselves for a "massive reaction" if Manchester City relinquish their Premier League crown to Jurgen Klopp's team this season.
It's increasingly inevitable City will be dethroned as champions, with runaway league leaders Liverpool 25 points clear at the top of the table and requiring three more victories to secure a first top-flight crown in 30 years.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby - live on Sky Sports Premier League - Sterling acknowledged City had slacked during this season's title defence but guaranteed a response from his team-mates.
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"Liverpool have been far better than everyone in the league and have been consistent, that is why they are top of the league," Sterling exclusively told Sky Sports.
"We have been slacking, we haven't kept our standards that we know we can keep to. From now to the end of the season we have to try and win every single game and whatever happens, happens. It's in Liverpool's hands and that's it."
Asked whether this was the start of an era of Liverpool dominance, Sterling replied: "We won the league twice in a row. Liverpool are winning, leading at this point in time.
"But I'm pretty sure that come the end of the season our boys will go away and come back again very hurt if they do pick up the league, and we will be up and running for next season for sure.
"[It will be] a massive reaction."
Did City throw the towel in early?
Liverpool's lead at the top of the Premier League is so substantial it has comfortably weathered the club's first defeat of the season - a 3-0 loss at Watford on Saturday.
The fact Manchester City were unable to capitalise and put pressure on Liverpool after their first lapse added weight to Bernardo Silva's claim the champions had thrown the towel in too early this season.
But it's not an assessment accepted by Sterling, who added: "I wouldn't say we let it go too easily. Football is all about momentum, inches, yards, little things from the start of the season.
"A really important moment in our season was when Gabriel Jesus scored the winner against Tottenham and it got disallowed by VAR. Little things like that take their toll.
"We scored a lot of late goals in our first title-winning season, it started in the third game against Bournemouth where I scored the winner, and it built momentum through the season and kept happening.
"We had the belief that we could win games because we had done it so many times, we didn't rush things because we knew we could win, and we knew we could get a chance. We haven't been at our best this season for sure, but there have been little things that haven't quite been the slice of luck."
No added derby motivation
City face rivals United for the fourth time this season on Sunday and make the short trip across Manchester looking to avenge league and cup defeats to their rivals.
Asked if the prospect of derailing United's top-four challenge provided added motivation in the Manchester City camp following those defeats, Sterling replied: "I wouldn't say so, no.
"It's always a massive game, everyone knows that, but it's no different to the game we played midweek against Sheffield Wednesday. It's a game we know we have to win and one which will be difficult, going to Old Trafford is not easy, but we will be there, and we will be fighting.
"There's no motivation to knock United out of the top four, the motivation is to win. It's difficult going and there and, in the past, winning there is a great feeling so we will try to do the business at the weekend.
"They have a good squad. Their form has been really good at times in the season and they have had some bad patches, but they get back on track again. Right now, they are doing pretty well.
"They are a team that can beat pretty much anyone in the league, so we have to be focused because we know what sort of game we are going to be up against - slick counter-attacking football - but we are fully prepared and ready."