Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool's 4-0 loss to Manchester City had "nothing to do" with being crowned Premier League champions last week.
In their first appearance after winning a first league title since 1990, Liverpool were well beaten at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
A Kevin De Bruyne penalty and goals from Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden, and an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal, saw City to an impressive victory.
Klopp refused to use Liverpool's title success as an excuse, but said City manager Pep Guardiola had an easy way to motivate his side.
"It has nothing to do with last week to be honest. It hurts like defeats hurt," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.
"What I wanted to see was a team who is ready to fight against Man City, who have obviously, I'm not sure if it's the right saying, but a point to prove. It was easy motivation for Pep, let me say it like this.
"The decisive moments City used, we didn't, and it doesn't help, so we had probably more chances than we had in games which we won but we didn't use them, or none of them, so City were there.
"Usually we don't give them that many counter-attacks, with two goals they had a throw-in which is a strength for us usually, tonight it wasn't, and that's how it was then and they have this result."
Liverpool are 20 points clear of City after what was just their second defeat of the Premier League season.
Klopp said any suggestions the gap between the teams was actually that big were wrong.
"If anybody thought before this game that the quality gap between Liverpool and Manchester City is 20 or 23 points, I cannot help these people," he said.
"Football is not about that. Football is about winning games and we did that in a pretty impressive manner.
"I saw, I think, pretty much all of City's games and even the games they lost were good, unbelievable. It is the truth, it is not that they didn't perform or whatever."
Liverpool will try to bounce back when they host lowly Aston Villa on Sunday.