Liverpool’s 6-0 thumping of Leeds United must have made a difficult watch for any Manchester City fans who had the interest or time to watch the game. Apart from the fact that the win brought Liverpool to within touching distance of City at the top of the Premier League table, it also saw the Reds surpass City in terms of goal difference.
No one knows better than the City faithful what the impact of goal difference can be in the title race. The Cityzens relied on a Sergio Aguero miracle in 2012 to wrestle the Premier League title away from neighbours and bitter rivals Manchester United.
Pep Guardiola’s team has always led the way in both points and goal difference in each of his Premier League title winning campaigns. But fortified in the January transfer window, Jurgen Klopp’s team is gunning to overtake City with renewed zest.
With a crunch encounter still awaiting the two title rivals in April, one can only wonder if City will have to do things the hard way again to defend their title.
When Liverpool turned up at the Etihad Stadium in January 2019 for their Premier League fixture against Man City, all the cards were in their favour.
The Reds were seven points ahead of their hosts and were in the middle of a 20-match unbeaten run that stretched back to the beginning of the season.
They were also backed by history. Only one other club in the history of English football has reached the new year unbeaten and not gone on to win the title. That was Sheffield United in the 1899-1900 campaign.
The Anfield side only needed to avoid defeat to keep their unbeaten run going and maintain their gap at the helm.
But City produced some heroics on the day with Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane scoring the all-important goals. But that’s only half the story as John Stones’ stunning goal-line clearance was also a key reason for City’s comeback.
The game proved to be a turning point in the season as City went on to close the gap and even overtake Liverpool to win the league.
However, this term can be a different ball game. The title race took on a new narrative after the comprehensive performance against Leeds. And that for obvious reasons.
There are now suggestions the Reds are looking to turn the tables on City.
How possible could that be?
A look at the fixtures list suggests winning the Premier League this season will not be down to the game between the two sides. With 12 games to go, there are several matches where anything could still go wrong for any of the two teams.
Liverpool still have West Ham, Arsenal and Manchester United to face before meeting City at the Etihad Stadium in April. After the crunch tie, they also face tricky tests against Tottenham, stubborn Southampton and Wolves to round out the season.
There are snares all over the place in those fixtures. Points could be dropped anywhere and at any time which could be costly in the grand scheme of things.
On their own part City’s biggest game before meeting Klopp’s side will be against Manchester United in early March. The remaining potentially tricky fixtures for the Blues will be against Wolves and West Ham.
So on paper, it does look like City have the upper hand over Liverpool. To start with, the match between the two sides will be played at the Etihad Stadium.
Then one would have to consider the fact that City have a three-point lead over the Reds. So even if they were to win the game, they will only draw level on points with City.
But based on what Guardiola’s side has done this season, it’s highly unlikely they will lose to Liverpool at home. Even if they did, they will still hold the advantage as they have fewer difficult games remaining on the fixture schedule.
So unlike it was in the 2018/2019 campaign where City came from behind in the new year to overtake Liverpool and claim the league title, the Reds are unlikely to do the same this time around. Except, of course, the Blues suffer a catastrophic loss of form and an unprecedented collapse.