Sports

Liverpool out to save title defence against Man City

There is only one place to be this afternoon and that is at Anfield where two heavyweights of the English game go head-to-head in a showdown which outcome may go a long way in determining who wears the Premier League crown on May 23. Current holders, Liverpool welcome the leaders Manchester City in a matchup of the best two teams of the last three seasons.

 

Until last campaign, the Premier League had rested in the trophy cabinet of the team from the blue half of Manchester from 2017 to 2019 as Pep Guardiola’s side set a new benchmark for the ‘beautiful game’ in England playing scintillating football.

 

However, after finishing second behind the Citizens in 2019, last season, Jurgen Klopp’s side finally found its bearings and hit heights not even reached by City in finally ending a 30-year wait to be once again crowned champions.

 

While Pep’s side had raised the bar to new heights, the German was able to take his side to stratospheric level which was the only way they could supplant Manchester City. In winning the ‘holy grail’ Liverpool clinched the Premier League title in just 31 games and broke the English top-flight record by winning it with seven fixtures to spare, bettering the five set by Manchester United (twice), Everton and Manchester City. Liverpool achieved the longest run of successive home league victories (24); breaking their own English record of 21.

 

 

Jürgen Klopp’s men recorded the best ever start to a season by any team in Europe’s top five leagues – 26 wins and a draw from their first 27 games – taking 79 points out of 81 on offer. They reached 30 league wins faster than any team in English top-flight history, in just 34 games (beating Manchester City’s 35 matches). During the course of a 38-game spell, the Reds accrued more points than any other team in Premier League history – 104.

 

The Reds equalled an English football record for the top two divisions of 32 league wins in a season, set by Manchester City in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and Tottenham Hotspur in Division 2 in 1919-20. By recording those 32 wins they also set a club record, beating the 30 won in 1978- 79 (42 games) and last season (38 games). At one stage of the season, Liverpool held a 25-point lead – the biggest ever in English top-flight history.

 

They equalled the Premier League record of 18 consecutive l e a g u e victories, w h i c h also set a new club record. H owever, this s e a s o n Klopp’s side has not been able to hit such dizzy heights and have already lost four times and also seen their impressive over three and a half years unbeaten home record go up in smoke after losing to Burnley.

 

In fact their poor form continued in midweek seeing them lose back to back home games for the first time since September 2012 after being beaten 1-0 by Brighton for the Seagulls first win at Anfield since March 1982. The reversal also meant that this was the first time since 1984 that Liverpool have failed to score in three straight games.

 

Speaking afterwards, Klopp said his side was “not fresh mentally and physically”. “The only explanation now is that we are a fatigued team, mentally more or less,” added Klopp. But while the Reds have shown frailty, their opponents have overcome a poor start to hit their stride which has seen them win 13 straight games in all competitions – a new club record.

 

Guardiola is, however, not getting carried away saying after their midweek win over Burnley that Liverpool cannot be underrated. “Of course [Liverpool] are a contender at the end to be champions, but it is for three points, like today.

 

“We have won six games in a row against teams in lower positions in the table. We know exactly how tough it was to win with many of these clubs. We had to do our best.” Despite Liverpool’s poor form Klopp should have them fired up for the game which should make for an entertaining spectacle for the neutrals.

 

The last time they met at Anfield on November 10, 2019 the home side ran away 3-1 winners, this time around although the score line might not be so emphatic Liverpool fans will not mind so long as their side triumphs because they know that anything short of three points might mean the end of their faltering title defence as the 10-point gap may be insurmountable.

 

However, today’s games kick off in London where Tottenham Hotspur hope to bounce back from their Thursday night loss to Chelsea when they host struggling West Bromwich Albion, while Leicester City is at Wolverhampton Wanderers and ends with Sheffield United hosting Chelsea.

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