There’s just one factor that you must take into consideration on Sunday and that is Liverpool vs. Manchester Metropolis — the sport that pits the European champion towards the English title holder, a contest that’s no stranger to hyperbole.
That hyperbole, nonetheless, might be deserved given the astonishing type of these two groups over the previous yr.
With Liverpool sitting high of the Premier League, six factors away from second-place Metropolis, we requested two of our CNN Sport writers for his or her views on the Anfield conflict and the place the title would possibly find yourself on the finish of the season.
We is perhaps simply over 1 / 4 of a approach by way of the season however defeat for Manchester Metropolis at Anfield on Sunday will greater than seemingly spell the top of the Premier League title race.
Even essentially the most ardent Metropolis fan will inform you a nine-point lead might be insurmountable.
Although Liverpool did let a 10-point lead — seven as soon as Metropolis had received its sport in hand — slip final season, Jurgen Klopp’s workforce this time period is a completely completely different beast.
The place it will as soon as stutter and stumble towards inferior and defensive sides, Liverpool has discovered a helpful knack of snatching victory — or no less than a draw — from the jaws of defeat, as evidenced by its three most up-to-date Premier League matches.
Metropolis, conversely, is probably not fairly the dreaded, unstoppable juggernaut it was final season.
An unlucky catalog of accidents has robbed Pep Guardiola of the prospect to play a full-strength line of defense for a lot of the present marketing campaign, fielding no less than one midfielder in central protection for 10 of the final 12 matches.
There’s additionally now a transparent, efficient blueprint for defeating Manchester Metropolis — as Norwich and Wolves have lately demonstrated — although executing it’s one other matter totally.
Liverpool is unlikely to undertake such a defensive, counterattacking technique at Anfield however Metropolis’s defensive frailties stay.
Guardiola is once more more likely to discipline considered one of Fernandinho or Rodri in central protection, whereas first-choice goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt after choosing up an damage in Wednesday’s draw with Atalanta.
His substitute, Claudio Bravo, has seen his profession in Manchester outlined by a number of high-profile errors and will not instill complete confidence within the touring followers inside Anfield.
However Guardiola’s aspect — and Metropolis sides earlier than him — has finished one thing this Liverpool workforce has by no means finished, the truth is, that no Liverpool workforce has ever finished: win the Premier League. Certainly the final time Liverpool received England’s top-flight title was in 1990.
It’s under no circumstances a trivial statistic, as loads of gifted Liverpool sides have led the title race up to now and wilted within the warmth; the strain of that elusive Premier League weighs heavy on the shoulders of everyone on the membership.
We witnessed it once more final season, as a run of 4 attracts in six matches after the mentally draining Christmas and New Yr interval handed the lead again to Metropolis, one it by no means appeared like relinquishing.
That run of expensive dropped factors might maybe be put right down to a slim defeat to Metropolis a few weeks earlier, a defeat by the narrowest of margins.
Metropolis went on to win the match and reduce Liverpool’s result in 4 factors, then, two video games later, got here the beginning of the collapse.
So usually a jolly caricature when issues are going effectively, Klopp’s masks rapidly slips when outcomes not go Liverpool’s approach and that jittery, ill-tempered temper seeps into the squad.
If Metropolis do get the higher of Liverpool on Sunday, do not be shocked if one other lead is rapidly whittled away.
It is Liverpool’s time, says James Masters
It has been 30 years since Liverpool final received the league title — however that wait may very well be about to return to an finish ought to Klopp’s aspect be taught from the expertise of final season.
In another period, the 97 factors Liverpool accrued final season would have received the title — the issue in Manchester Metropolis, Liverpool faces an opponent that has redefined the phrase consistency.
Metropolis, which received final season’s title with 98 factors, two shy of the entire it posted in profitable the Premier League 12 months earlier, is a profitable machine.
Few can watch Guardiola’s aspect led by the splendidly proficient Raheem Sterling and midfield magician Kevin De Bruyne with out being impressed with the model of soccer on supply.
In Sergio Aguero, Metropolis boasts one of many all-time nice goalscorers in Premier League historical past, whereas David Silva is at all times straightforward on the attention. Whereas others get older, he appears to get youthful.
And but, regardless that Metropolis received every little thing on supply in England final season, the Premier League, the League Cup and FA Cup, it was Liverpool’s Champions League triumph that appeared to overshadow what had been achieved by Guardiola’s aspect.
Whether or not we’re witnessing the start of a brand new rivalry between two golf equipment who seem set to dominate English soccer for years to return is ready to debate. The animosity between Liverpool and Metropolis pales into insignificance in comparison with that between Liverpool and Manchester United.
However Metropolis is barely too conscious of the risk posed by Liverpool — the workforce it presently trails by six factors within the Premier League and a aspect it has did not beat in any of its earlier 18 visits to Anfield.
Don’t overestimate the Anfield issue. Metropolis has been scarred earlier than, although it ought to have received final season’s encounter the place Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty in a goalless draw.
Liverpool’s house document is massively spectacular. It also needs to be identified that not since April 2017 when Crystal Palace triumphed at Anfield has Liverpool misplaced at house within the Premier League. Solely Metropolis and Leicester escaped with out defeat at Anfield final season.
And maybe that is why this sport is so big. Few puzzled if Liverpool might sustain the depth of final season, a season during which the emotional pressure turned evident as nerves started to fray.
For Liverpool, this is a chance to maneuver 9 factors away from Metropolis and although under no circumstances a deadly blow, it will be an enormous assertion of intent.
There’s additionally a case for claiming that Liverpool is barely going to get higher with the margin of victory in six of its 10 Premier League wins up to now this season being by a single aim. As well as, it has solely managed to maintain two clear sheets within the league up to now this season.
And but, there’s a feeling that Liverpool has developed that knack that every one champions want — the flexibility to grind out a win with out being at its easiest, and the invaluable means to discover a aim on the very dying of a contest.
Final weekend was an ideal instance of Liverpool’s refusal to be denied. Trailing 1-Zero at Aston Villa, Andy Robertson netted an 87th-minute equalizer earlier than Mane netted the winner deep into stoppage time. It was referred to as ‘Fergie time,’ now it is ‘Kloppage time.’
Mane, who has scored 10 targets in 16 appearances in all competitions, has been Liverpool’s excellent participant up to now this season.
He can be key on Sunday for a Liverpool aspect that’s unbeaten in its previous 28 league fixtures, having received 23 of these and drawn the opposite 5.
A win towards Metropolis will inject but extra perception right into a aspect already brimming with confidence. This a workforce that performs with a zest and enthusiasm that’s infectious, a model of soccer that will get the impartial off the sofa and mouthing “How?” as yet one more last-minute winner hits the again of the online.
Enjoyable, younger, vibrant and backed by a coach in Klopp whose charisma is on the very coronary heart of this Liverpool workforce, it is certainly time to finish that 30-year wait.
If it could possibly address the additional calls for of the Membership World Cup in Qatar and the Champions League, this may very well be Liverpool’s yr. The one caveat to that’s that comparable was stated 12 months in the past.