There is only one place to be today for lovers of top flight English football and that is the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City hosts Liverpool in the game of the weekend. The Premier League Match Day 8 fixture pits the two top sides of the last few seasons together for the first time this campaign with a lot riding on the outcome even though it is still early days.
Two campaigns ago when they were pushed all the way by the Reds, City only managed to retain their crown courtesy of the draw they were able to elk out at Anfield which saw them finish one point ahead of Liverpool.
However, Liverpool was finally able to end their 30-year wait for the title last season when they were able to keep the team from the blue half of Manchester at bay.
Liverpool was in imperious form only losing thrice all season (and two of these occurred when they had already wrapped up the title), amassing 99 points to finish a massive 18 ahead of the former champions, City. Some of the football that they played was truly captivating with some pundits even alluding that they were often even better than the City side which had won back-to-back titles.
However, although still many bookmakers’ picks to retain their title, the lingering effects of the long COVID-19 lockdown over the summer appears to still be affecting the ‘beautiful game’ as a number of results has shown.
Only one month ago, the champions let in seven goals for the first time since 1963 when they were hammered 7-2 by West Ham United for their first victory over the Reds in 18 attempts dating back to December 2018. Even the usually stoic Jurgen Klopp was at a loss to explain what happened to his wards that evening. “You have to say that Villa did very well,” Klopp told BBC Sport.
“They were very physical, very smart and very direct, we were not. “We had big chances which we did not use, but when you concede seven I’m not sure you can say it w o u l d have been 7-7. We made too m a n y m i s t a k e s and massive ones ob- viously. It started with the first goal and around the goals we made mass i v e mi s – takes.”
Since then though the German has gotten his players to show some of the form that won them the title last campaign and have gone on to remain unbeaten in three Premier League ties – with two wins and a draw.
On the other hand, Pep Guardiola’s side is languishing in uncharacteristic territory in 10th place after also kicking off the season blowing hot and cold. Having only played six games (City has an outstanding match), Pep’s side has only managed three wins and has suffered two draws and a defeat in the process and are already five points adrift of the visiting league leaders.
When the two sides meet in the corresponding fixture last campaign the Citizens were comprehensive 4-0 winners, although the Reds had already wrapped up the title at this point.
This evening’s game is much different and has a lot riding on it with Klopp hoping to lay a marker on a possible title rival and Pep acutely aware that a defeat today will further widen the gap between the rivals. One has to go back to November 21, 2015 for the last time the Anfield outfit triumphed in a 4-1 win in the league which is an indication of how strong City is at home.
Since their first meeting on September 16, 1893 both sides have met 215 times with Liverpool holding the clear edge with 105 wins to City’s 57; Pep will be hoping to make it victory number 58 if for nothing else than to at least stop the gap between the two teams widening.
In other games high flying Tottenham is at struggling West Brom; Leicester City is home to Wolverhampton Wanderers and in the final game, Arsenal welcome Aston Villa to the Emirates.