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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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Scousers vs Mancs Part two, Manchester City vs Liverpool: Title decider already?

This one is massive. 

It has been for the past ten years but ever since Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp arrived it has gone that one step further.

So much so that it is easily the most anticipated in the English calendar and in the world with the sheer quality of the two sides meaning that it will have huge consequences on the title race. 

It is no different this time out even though the league is shaping up in bizarre fashion. 

Is it a title decider?  

Probably not this early in the campaign but it could be a massive indication of both of the sides title credentials and were the title might end as Liverpool are able to go eight points clear of Guardiola. 

But if City win, they can go two pints behind the champions with a game in hand. 

So, baring that in mind Manchester City may be the team who need the win more and who need to give a warning to the rest of the league that they mean business after a unconvincing start. 

A heavy defeat against Leicester City and two draws against Leeds and West Ham have shown Manchester City to be frail at the back even after spending £80 million on defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake. 

It could kickstart their Premier League season if they were to beat Liverpool, but that is not easy with or without Virgil Van Dijk. 

When there was confirmation that the Dutchman was ruled out for the whole season Manchester City immediately became title favourites according to numerous bookies. 

Since the injury Liverpool have played five and won five. 

So, the injury to Van Dijk is certainly not the end of the world and Liverpool have proved that to be the case in the past against Manchester City. 

Back in 2018 Liverpool ended Manchester City’s invincibility by beating them 4-3 at Anfield with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip the starting centre backs.  

If Liverpool can beat the greatest Manchester City side in Premier League history or the centurions as they were called without Van Dijk, they can do it again attempting to defend their crown. 

Last season when Liverpool made a mockery of Guardiola’s Manchester City with a 19-point gap at the top of the table the two games between the blue side of Manchester and the red side of Merseyside were totally different stories. 

In the first game there was a sold out Anfield who were right behind their team who outclassed Manchester City with some wonderful goals and left Manchester City in their wing mirror nine points behind.  

It would end up being huge in the outcome of the title. 

Then at the Etihad it was empty (because of COVID-19) and Manchester City performed at their very best, when it did not matter as Liverpool had been crowned champions a few days prior after City lost against Chelsea. 

So, Man City will want to win consecutive league games against Liverpool and show that they can turn it on when needed which they have failed to do in the past year. 

If they do beat Liverpool it will be the first time they’ve won top flight back-to-back games against them in 83 years which is an insane stat and portrays just how difficult it has been for The Citizens against Liverpool over the years. 

But Jurgen Klopp reiterated the point that it will be hard for Liverpool in his press conference even though he has beaten them seven times since he has joined. 

He said: “This is the most difficult game in the world of football to play against Manchester City.” 

The German has a couple of enormous decisions to make for the game. 

Firstly, who partners Joe Gomez in defence? 

Nathaniel Phillips had a man of the match performance last week against West Ham, Rhys Williams didn’t put a foot wrong and got a clean sheet against free-scoring Atalanta in the Champions League meanwhile Joel Matip has been passed fit to play. 

It would be a surprise to not see Matip start purely based on experience alone but his quality is fantastic when he stays fit but you could not argue against Klopp if he prefers to give Phillips or Williams another huge chance as they will have deserved it. 

Whoever does play will be glad that they will not have to come up against Sergio Aguero who is injured. 

Secondly, who do you start in the front three Roberto Firmino or Diogo Jota? 

Jota has been in exceptional form bagging a hattrick in midweek whilst it would be fair to say Firmino has not been at it so far.  

Klopp though like always defended the Brazilian in his press conference saying: “He’s with us, I don’t have to say one word about him. 

“If you aren’t with us, I don’t care. He’s the difference maker in so many games. I would feel embarrassed now if I have to mention the quality of Bobby Firmino.” 

Fair to say that Klopp still backs his number nine but with Jota in the form he’s in it might be hard to bench him in the biggest game of the season so far.  

However, that might just be the reason we might see Firmino start as there is no one that Klopp trusts more than the Bobby Dazzler so we will have to wait and see. 

On the same weekend that Liverpool leave Melwood they want to be leaving the Etihad stadium with three points and a message to the rest of Europe, they are still the same juggernaut from the last two seasons. 

Written by Elliot Thompson

READ MORE: Liverpool’s Silent Title

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