Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has predicted the games between the main title contenders will be critical in deciding who wins the Premier League.
Gundogan scored his first goal of the season as reigning champions City swept aside Cardiff 5-0 on Saturday, while leaders Liverpool maintained their 100 per cent record with a 3-0 home win against Southampton.
Third-placed Chelsea are level on points with City and two adrift of Liverpool after being held to a goalless draw at West Ham on Sunday.
“It looks like those games will be important,” Gundogan said.
“We play Liverpool in a couple of weeks and it will be a real test for us at Anfield.
“Liverpool is a very strong team and Chelsea are very strong.
“We played an incredible Premier League season last year, gaining 100 points, and we are aware that it will get more and more difficult.
“Our opponents are stronger than they were last year and we are the champions, so everyone wants to beat us.”
Sergio Aguero kick-started City’s cruise in the Welsh capital on his 300th appearance for the club, with Bernardo Silva, Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez (two) also on target.
“Sergio is one of our most important players because he is always able to score,” Gundogan said.
“You always know he can score out of nothing like he did here.
“We are very happy he has committed his future to the club to help us win a lot more games.
“But it’s not just Sergio, all of us are hungry for success.
“It’s always tough playing after a midweek game, but we took it very seriously from the beginning and played very well.”
Gundogan was fortunate to avoid injury after being caught by a knee-high challenge from Cardiff midfielder Joe Ralls just before half-time.
The challenge evoked memories of Joe Bennett’s bad tackle on Leroy Sane when the two clubs met in the FA Cup in January.
But Ralls stayed on the pitch, with referee Michael Oliver choosing to show a yellow rather than a red card.
“It’s a little bit sore and a little bit painful now,” Gundogan said of his right knee.
“I was lucky. It was a bad challenge, but it’s OK.”