Liverpool vs Manchester City: Is it winner takes all?
It's still early in the season, but the Liverpool vs Manchester City game on Sunday already feels like a title-deciding showdown. Jurgen Klopp's side has been on fire so far in the campaign. The Reds are yet to taste defeat in the league after seven rounds of matches. But Wednesday night's loss in the Champions League makes it three games without a win in all competitions.
Although the front three are scoring and there is solidity at the back, the real problem for the Merseysiders, as far as the title race is concerned, is that whatever they have, their opponents can boast of that too. And then some. Yet, they remain the side that has inflicted the most harm on Pep Guardiola's men in the last year.
Four victories in the last five meetings between the two sides in all competitions tip the scales heavily in favour of the Reds. The Catalan manager will want a huge response from his Sky Blue army.
That leaves us with a blockbuster on our hands, as Anfield is a fortress. Also, Klopp's team does not need any other encouragement to go all out to attack for a win; they know City pose the biggest threat to their title ambitions. And so beating them again will not only continue the head-to-head dominance but also give them an early advantage.
The state of the table, even at this early stage, already indicates that the title race will be a very close one this time around. Liverpool led the way until last weekend when they dropped points for the first time this season against another contender, Chelsea. They battled to 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. City took full advantage to catch up. The Cityzens now sit at the summit, but only on goal difference.
Maurizio Sarri's men have ambitions of their own. They too have not lost in the league this season. But that will not concern Klopp as much as beating City on Sunday. And after failing to win in the last three matches in all competitions, as Liverpool bowed to Napoli 1-0 in the Champions League, another loss will set the alarm ringing on the likelihood of another trophy-less campaign.
Two full seasons have come and gone since the German took over and he is yet to win any trophy. Yes, most of the club's faithful are happy he's got them back in the mix competing at the highest level against European giants, but he has to end the trophy draught at some point, surely?
Guardiola, on the other hand, will want to win this game to tighten his grip on top spot. A victory for the Sky Blues will not only spur the team on but will also demoralise the opposition. That will definitely give his team an edge early on.
Conversely, a loss will raise question marks about the team's ability to retain the title. The Anfield side will have the psychological edge moving forward. That sets up a situation where the winner on the day could triumph in the course of the season as a whole.
Whatever the case, expect fireworks at Anfield on Sunday. It will be a fight to finish. While Klopp will want to put an end to his winless run and continue his head-to-head superiority over Guardiola, the Catalan on his own part will see this as an opportunity to get one over his usual nemesis.
Like the last league meeting on this ground between these teams which ended up as a seven-goal thriller, you could also expect goals galore in this one. Two of the best teams in the division will go toe-to-toe, both will come out swinging.
First vs second in the table, and the best two attacking sides in the league will likely provide some of the best advertisement for Premier League football. No one will be treading water here for sure. And even if the match ends in a draw, (which is unlikely,) this will be a reflection of how the season will pan out. That is with the two going shoulder to shoulder until the end, or one trumping the other.