Playing careers and Premier League seasons are made of moments. Moments where a player or a team can either rise or fall. 22-year-old Erling Braut Haaland and his Manchester City teammates face such a moment against Liverpool at Anfield.
Last Saturday Pep Guardiola’s lads faced a different kind of moment against Manchester United. The Manchester Blues dispatched their crosstown rivals with relative ease. The Manchester Derby became a showcase for the offensive force that City have unleashed on the Prem in the person of Haaland, and a reminder of how far apart the bitter rivals are at the moment.
Over the previous 5 seasons, the City v Liverpool rivalry has become the most meaningful in England. Manager Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are the only club who have seriously challenged for the title in that time, winning 1 and finishing runner-up to Pep Guardiola’s squad on 2 occasions. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and the Reds ran away with the league in 2019/20 and were second by a single point to City on the final day in both 2019 and 2022.
This season, Liverpool have had some trouble finding their form at the start. They have issues in Midfield and defence and find themselves sitting 10th in the league table having won just twice in 8 matches. Man City are unbeaten in the Prem and haven’t lost a match in any competition since they fell 3-1 to the Merseyside Reds in the pre-season Community Shield.
That Community Shield match at Twickenham back in late July was the first moment for Erling Haaland at his new club. Of course, the team would have liked to win and take the momentum of beating a rival for a trophy into the season. But more so, Haaland was looking to announce his presence to the country in a national showcase.
Neither City nor their new striker achieved their goals for the match. Liverpool looked crisp and seemed to take all their chances against the Blues. Haaland was unable to cash in on the chances he got and Klopp’s reds rode back to Anfield with the silverware.
Perhaps an even bigger moment than the Community Shield is how the club and Haaland responded. City haven’t lost since and have won 10 matches from 13. Haaland has set the world on fire. In 12 games for Manchester City, the Norway international has scored 20 goals and assisted an additional 3. To say that Erling Braut Haaland, Destroyer of Worlds, has become the man of the moment in world football would be an understatement.
Now we are met with the next big moment for Erling and his mates. The match at Anfield represents an opportunity for City to put further distance between themselves and Liverpool in the table. Liverpool have lagged behind early, but they have the talent to get hot and make a serious run at the top. A win on the road would be a statement unto itself but it would also put the Manc Blues 16 points clear of the team that has pushed them more than any other.
For Haaland the job is different. Beyond the team objective, Erling needs a goal in this game. When Erling failed to score against Liverpool in July, the overreactions came at a furious pace. His play since quickly turned the early narrative on its head, but a goalless performance against the Reds again would mean an entirely new storyline. The storyline where Klopp, Virgil Van Dyke, and the Liverpool defence have the formula to stop the unstoppable force.
The other side of that coin has Erling Haaland rising to the momentum and hanging a masterpiece in Anfield. Breaking through the Liverpool lines and terrorizing the Kop. Haaland has risen to moments throughout his young career, and if you had to wager you’d bet he rises to this one as well I reckon.
The Premier League has a long way to go to tell the story of the 2022/23 season. Erling Haaland, Manchester City, and Liverpool will each be featured prominently in that tale as always. Sunday’s match at Anfield won’t decide the title, but it could be a massive moment in its pursuit.