Only one point separates Manchester City and their runners-up, Liverpool, on the morning of the 32nd round. This Sunday’s match will undoubtedly be decisive in the race for the title.
In the heart of winter, in the cold of Liverpool, the atmosphere is gloomy for the Reds. The main rival in the title race in recent years, Manchester City, has a 14-point lead.
Even if Jürgen Klopp’s men were two games late, the title was already folded, as the Specialists of the Premier League agreed. We imagine that Anfield residents have only the Champions League to save their season…
In mid-April, the mercury rose in Merseyside County. The day after a match culminating in the quarter-final first leg of C1 on the lawn of Benfica (3-1 victory), Liverpool still dreams of a new crown in the most prestigious of European competitions. But not only. Since January 15, the Reds have won ten consecutive league games.
Enough to resume… 10 points to the Skyblues, who have played only nine games in the same period. And to completely restart the race for the title at the dawn of the confrontation between the two teams this Sunday (17:30).
Mutual respect between Klopp and Guardiola
If we couldn’t become champions, we wanted to qualify for the next Champions League; we didn’t think about anything else. And the rest came next. We haven’t had any attendance in City’s games since then,” Jürgen Klopp recently reminded at a press conference.
It will be a constant battle, and we accept it.
On the other hand, this weekend, the German technician will influence the result of the match. Just like his counterpart, Pep Guardiola, for whom he has a certain admiration.
“I respect a lot what they do, and it’s an incredible football team. And, for me, Pep is the best manager in the world,” Klopp said. I could not respect more what they do. I like to watch them. I can’t say I like a lot of opponents or competitors, but I like watching City.
So when we play them, the analytical work is a mixture of seriousness and real joy… it’s fantasy football.
For his part, the Spanish technician is full of praise for his opponent either. “We know they are going to win almost every game. Hopefully not the next one, but we will try to do the same.
The match will be a battle of all times, but we accept it,” he said.
Behind these very cordial exchanges hides a fierce desire to win. And not sure that one of the two teams is polite to the other.
This is evidenced in particular by the premature exit of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, in the 61st minute, during the quarter-final against Benfica on Wednesday and the putting on the bench of Diogo Jota, yet in great form at the moment.
A way to preserve the Reds team’s attacking line and make it clear that the most important game of the week was Sunday’s against City.
The Citizens did not have the opportunity to rotate, except for the ball, against Atlético (1-0). But the siege imposed on the Colchoneros (71% possession for City) will certainly not have tired Pep Guardiola’s men too much.
Liverpool lost the championship lead in the first leg
In addition to this fierce fight for the title, the two English clubs will certainly want to take their revenge on the first leg (2-2).
On October 3, at Anfield, the Reds and Skyblues had surrendered blow for blow and even a little more, when in the 72nd, Henderson made a big foul on Bernardo Silva while managing to escape the second yellow card.
Behind, Mohamed Salah’s splendid goal had not helped the mood of Pep Guardiola, who was quite angry with the referee.
For its part, Liverpool will surely regret the equalization ten minutes from the end of the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne. That day, Liverpool had lost the first place to Chelsea without ever recovering it. Before, perhaps, Sunday’s shock.
Twists and turns, contacts, and crazy actions are the ingredients of this first leg and those that football lovers hope to find for this return match, with, this time, a winner to spice up a little more this end of the championship.