It’s been an exhilarating Premier League title race this season. After going empty-handed in his third year as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp is determined to make this season his and Liverpool’s own.
The Anfield side has been impressive losing just once in 23 league games. It’s an intimidating performance for the other title contenders especially considering the fact that that single loss came away against the defending champions and main title rivals - Manchester City.
The Sky Blues had to dig deep and give one of the best performances of the campaign so far to emerge victorious. The Reds pushed hard to continue their unprecedented run only to be denied by the frame of the post and a last ditch goal-line clearance by John Stones. Although City players equally missed clear-cut chances with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling coming close, City’s class shone brightly in the end.
But will that be enough?
City’s hard-fought victory cut Liverpool’s seven-point lead at the top of the table to just four. Ordinarily, such a gap is not usually difficult to bridge in the Premier League. Except that these are strange times. City romped to the title last term in grand style and the opposition watched and learned. Some even got inspired. One of them Jurgen Klopp. The German tactician set out to replicate such success.
He went to the transfer market with a vengeance and brought in reinforcements that have vastly improved the Merseysiders. From the goalkeeping position to the defence and attack, the team brimming with quality. Consequently, the side is excelling in both defence and attack. With just 13 goals conceded in 23 matches, that’s the least in the division so far. Yet, upfront the side is second only to City in the number of goals scored this term.
As it stands, only a serious departure from the form displayed in the first half of the season can open the door for any other team to seriously challenge for the league crown. What that means is the title is now Liverpool’s to lose. Even if Guardiola’s team wins all the remaining 15 matches, if the Reds do not drop more than three points from now until the end of the season, they will be crowned champions.
City ended up with the double last term but even though the Merseysiders are still in two competitions, their priority is clearly the Premier League trophy. Who would blame them? After almost three decades without the title, the club’s faithful can hardly wait any longer. In fact, any other trophies can wait. Little surprise then that Klopp made a mockery of the FA Cup fielding a second string team that could hardly stand up to Wolves.
Despite losing to Nuno Espirito Santo’s men in the competition, it was business as usual once Premier League matches resumed. Although the team has scrapped two wins on the bounce beating Brighton 1-0 away and labouring to a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield, that in itself is a quality of a title winning side.
But there is still a lot to play for. Like City, Liverpool will still play Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham. Points can be dropped in any of these games. There’s a total of 12 of them on offer in these games. Add Arsenal to the list for City and the path to the top gets steeper.
Yet, there’s still hope for the Cityzens. Despite Liverpool’s strength and depth, Man City remains the better team of the two. Head-to-head this term the Sky Blues have taken four points out of a possible six from the table toppers. Yes, that is no criteria for winning the league, but the loss at the Etihad Stadium will definitely not be the last for Klopp’s team.
However, a poor run of form will be City’s best hope to catch Liverpool. The reason being that even City could still lose a game or two before the season ends.
But in terms of making a late surge to the title, recent history favours City. In the last decade, the only team to have topped the league in December and end up not emerging champions the next May is Liverpool.
As for the Sky Blues, closing an eight-point gap between April and May to beat Man United to the title in 2012 is a huge inspiration. It is also an indication that bridging a four-point gap with 15 matches left to play is not an impossible task. So the title is still very much within reach for the Cityzens.