When the fixtures came out for this season’s EPL, two matches stood out – namely, both the ones involving Liverpool and Manchester City.
Back then it was thought these two teams would once again be the league’s pace setters and that has been very much the case. So what – if anything – did we learn from last Sunday’s game?
The game itself
First of all, far too many times a game is hyped – or over hyped – for weeks, even months, only for it to fail to deliver on quality, drama, excitement or talking points.
That certainly cannot be leveled at the match at Anfield last weekend.
If any game could be described as having everything, then this season’s second meeting (if you count the Community Shield curtain raiser) between the league’s heavyweights was that game.
Spectacular goals, controversy, touchline spats… these are the very things the blanket coverage such games attract before, during and after the actual match are built upon, and it had them all in spades.
From a Manchester City perspective
There were several takeaways from the game from a light blue perspective.
First of all, if the games against Norwich and Wolves did not tell us as much already, this game did – Manchester City are beatable.
This was a game they had to if not win, then at least not lose. It was the sort of game that championship winning teams find a way to get at least a point from.
It was just the type of game that the Manchester City sides of late made sure they did just that, and more often than not, came away with all three points.
This is a different side, one with weaknesses and frailties. Still an exceptional side, but one that can be got at.
The game showed that at the back, especially without Aymeric Laporte, City are vulnerable, a word that has not been used in conjunction with the back to back champions for a long time.
It also showed that without Ederson in nets, they just do not have the same swagger.
Claudio Bravo is a very good keeper, and was not really to blame for any of the goals – though perhaps he could have been more decisive for the third – but he is just not so comfortable playing the ball out, and that is such a cornerstone of the way City play.
As a result of that game, Manchester City find themselves at 9/4 to win the title for the third time in a row.
It is the longest odds they have been at for many, many months, and the pressure was showing on the players – too many of whom lost their one on one battles – and on Pep Guardiola himself, with his antics after the match.
From a Liverpool perspective
Popular opinion in the summer held that the title could very well be decided by who won the head to head matches between the two favourites.
The reality probably won’t be that straight forward, but Liverpool passed a huge test last weekend.
Yes they got the crucial three points, extending their lead at the top of the EPL to eight points, but they also took a lot more than that away from the match.
This was the type of game they have come up short in all too often in recent times. That was certainly not the case at Anfield.
Practically every player won their personal battles on the pitch and by the end they were playing with a swagger truly befitting champions elect.
Not that Klopp would allow his players to start thinking like that yet. He is far too aware nothing is won yet, and there will be bumps along the way.
Last weekend’s game was a huge show of intent however. It was a statement that this is not the Liverpool team of old, this was one even better than last year’s version. One that not only has the talent and ability to win crucial games, but the mindset and confidence to go with it and put it into action.
We predicted the title would be Liverpool bound in the summer, and so far we have seen nothing, especially from the head to heads, to make us change our opinion.