Premier League: Liverpool need this win more than City

While the league title may not be definitively decided in tomorrow's game between Manchester City and Liverpool. John Roycroft feels only a win for the Reds will be enough to maintain their title-challenge  
Premier League: Liverpool need this win more than City

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after the final whistle during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, in 2020, won by City. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

WITH their midweek European obligations successfully assigned to the 'nearly done' file. The Premier League's top two sides were free to address 'That' looming date on the fixture calendar, as Manchester City host Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow evening.

The Premier League and Sky Sports often liked to trumpet their 'Super Sunday' credentials down the years, but this Sunday's encounter between the northwest neighbours may genuinely claim to be worthy of living up to the hype.

Phil Foden of Manchester City breaks away from James Milner of Liverpool during their Premier League match at Anfield last October. The match ended in a draw. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Phil Foden of Manchester City breaks away from James Milner of Liverpool during their Premier League match at Anfield last October. The match ended in a draw. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images

The two sides have managed, after more than five and a half thousand minutes of league football between them this season, to be within just one point of each other at the top of the table, with 30 matches played. And with the potential of going four or two points clear of their nearest rivals, this one match has now understandably been framed as 'a winner takes all' encounter.

However, no one who seriously looks at the number of fixtures and the quality of the opponents the top two face after Sunday's game can genuinely claim that the winner at the Ethiad will then romp home to the end of the season error-free.

What Sunday's game does offer any possible winner though, is the opportunity and mental advantage of having the destination of the 2021-22 Premier League title rest in wholly their own hands.

The two sides have completed amazing feats of team performance over the season. In the 60 league matches played between them, they have lost only five games combined, drawn 10 times and won 45 times, scoring 147 goals for the concession of just 38.

With eight matches still to play, both sides have already run up the type of points total that could win a league title years ago. But since the Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp rivalry has started in the Premier League there has barely been a wafer's width between their' teams. Since the 2018-2019 season, Manchester City have accumulated 335 league points, and Liverpool have claimed 334.

Record-breakers

Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (right) and Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (right) and Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Both sides continue to rack up records on a weekly basis along the way. This week saw City's Aymeric Laporte claim the most Premier League points for a player in their first 100 games. His total? An amazing 254 points.

This week's win over Benfica saw Liverpool complete eight away wins in a row, across all competitions. An achievement unequalled by any other Liverpool team at any time. Some accomplishment when you consider the quality of some of the legendary teams that preceded them.

Liverpool's Luis Diaz (right) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. The side's eight away victory in a row. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Liverpool's Luis Diaz (right) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. The side's eight away victory in a row. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Home comforts

Nevertheless, making it nine on Sunday may be a task beyond even this Liverpool side. And that's mainly down to Liverpool's rather pathetic record at the Ethiad. They have only won there once in the league since Guardiola has taken charge.

While this Liverpool side have topped success after success against teams across the entire league, the Etihad has remained a resolute nut too hard for Klopp and his players to break. It's a sizeable monkey they now have to shake off, as one feels that a Liverpool defeat here would be much harder for them to recover from than would be the case for City should they lose.

A City win would see their lead extend back to four points and require them to slip up twice in the remaining seven games for Liverpool to catch up with them again. Which seems rather unlikely for a team that's only lost three times all season as it is.

Objectively, Liverpool face the harder run-in than Man City against sides higher up the table with more to play for. Plus Liverpool would probably need to continue a run to the finish line that would be record-equalling in the league.

If Liverpool are to win all of their remaining games, it would mean they went on to win 18 straight games, equalling their October 2019 - February 2020 record, which itself equalled Man City's record of 18-straight wins in the 2017-2018 season. Doing this, at the business end of the season, when every game is a cup final is a tough task to ask of even of this great side.

While so much is attention is on what it means if either side wins there is of course the very likely chance of a draw here. But a draw probably suits City more while they still retain the point advantage. And still requires someone else to upset City again for Liverpool to bag the crown.

The title may not be decided in tomorrow's clash in the Eastlands but it's hard to see anything but a Liverpool victory being enough to give the Merseysiders an outside chance of claiming the title come May.

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