On Sunday at Anfield, league-leading Manchester City showed their dominance once again, beating Liverpool 4-1. After Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah converted from the penalty spot to make the game 1-1, 2 costly errors from goalkeeper Alisson Becker allowed tap-ins for Ilkay Gündoğan and Raheem Sterling, which all but sealed the 3 points for City. Sunday’s win marks the 1st time the Manchester club has beat Liverpool at Anfield since 2003. Not only that, but this result also gives City a 5 point gap from 2nd place Manchester United. With both of these clubs heading in different directions after their last meeting of the season, what’s next?
After their loss Sunday night, Liverpool find themselves 10 points behind leaders Manchester City. A point deficit of that nature this far into the season all but spells the end for Liverpool’s run at back-to-back league titles. One of the main factors that comes into play is the injuries at the back for Liverpool. Joe Gomez, Joël Matip and Dutch international Virgil Van Dijk all have been injured during this season, causing Liverpool to put together a makeshift defense for most of the season. What comes with Jürgen Klopp’s changes is a drop in form and fatigue.
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After a run of 64 games unbeaten at home, Klopp’s men have now lost 3 straight at Anfield. Fatigue is becoming a factor, as well. In Sunday’s game, right back Trent Alexander-Arnold and left back Andy Robertson looked a shell of themselves. Liverpool’s defensemen were under stress all game by City’s Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden. With Liverpool being out of every English competition, the only thing they have left is the Champions League and securing a top 4 place in the Premier League. By all means, I’m not saying they’re going to win the Champions League (Manchester City or Bayern will), but this gives Liverpool the opportunity to establish their form against some of the top teams in Europe. Along with that, it gives them something to hang their hat on as they head into next season with their squad at full strength.
The English club has to be weary of its round of 16 draw RB Leipzig. Currently sitting 2nd in the Bundesliga, Julian Nagelsmann’s squad is in good form. During the group stage of the Champions League, Leipzig already found success against an English club by beating Manchester United, dumping them into the Europa League. In order for Liverpool to advance in the Champions League and move themselves into a top 4 position in the Prem, they have to figure out their problems at the back. Liverpool also needs to get back to attacking on the counter in waves, not having to stop and start constantly to build up their offensive move. The English club will have some help in doing so with Sadio Mané and Brazillian international Fabhino coming back from injury. Liverpool has about a week to prepare before their round of 16 Champions League matchup with RB Leipzig.
When it comes to Manchester City, they’ve gotten back to their winning ways. The result against Liverpool on Sunday marked 14 games unbeaten in all competitions, a top-flight record in England for most consecutive wins across all competitions. This run of form feels like the classic City push, as they look for their 3rd league title in the last 5 years. Perhaps the most impressive part about this run is the fact that City has been without Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne for 2 weeks. Bruyne was forced off against Aston Villa after he hurt his hamstring, and could miss up to 6 weeks with the injury.
However, midfielder Ilkay Gündoğan and forward Phil Foden have stepped up in De Bruyne’s absence and been a focal point in City’s attack. In 17 appearances, Foden has scored 5 goals and assisted on 3. At the young age of 20, the English international has shown he can be the centerpiece for City’s midfield for years to come with his poise on the ball and movement off of it. When it comes to Gündoğan, in 17 games he’s scored 9 goals and assisted on 1. Since December 15, no one in the Premier League has scored more than the German midfielder, with 8 shots finding the back of the net. Along with that, 23-year-old centre-back Rúben Dias has been an anchor at the back for City. Since his arrival from Benfica in September, Dias has helped keep 12 clean sheets for City.
Going forward, City will be looking to close out the Premier League as soon as possible, so they can focus on making a deep run in the Champions League. If they’re able to run away with the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s main XI will have the opportunity to rest, giving other players the opportunity to play and gain experience. City’s next big game comes March 6th, when they play United in the Manchester Derby. If they win that, I don’t see any team challenging them for the rest of the season, and they should cruise to another league title.
In the round of 16 for the Champions League, City drew Borussia Mönchengladbach, which is a favorable draw. City also find themselves in the FA Cup (5th round) and the Carabao Cup final. With the form that City are in right now, they have to be pegged as the favorites in every competition they’re in. Going forward, City will look to keep up their dominance at the back through Rúben Dias and attacking prowess through their variety of midfielders and forwards. City will also look forward to gaining Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne as they push for a quadruple this season.
Both teams have clear goals set for the rest of the season, there’s no denying that. These next few months will determine each club’s mindset and visions going into the summer transfer window and next season.