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Can Liverpool catch Manchester City? Klopp's show of defiance at the Etihad proves they still believe

3:00 PM GMT+8 11/04/2022
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2021-22
Sunday's 2-2 draw means the Premier League title race is still open with seven games left to play - but who will hold their nerve?

The kindly steward pointed the way down the touchline, but Jurgen Klopp had other ideas.

His post-match media duties were calling, but Sky Sports, the BBC and the rest would have to wait. They will have understood. 

The Liverpool boss had somewhere else to be first. Somewhere far more important.

It was 20 minutes after the final whistle when Klopp stepped onto the Etihad pitch and made his way towards the away end to deliver a stirring show of defiance. 

“I was looking for my missus!” he would claim later. He didn’t find her, but he did find 2,880 other heart-eyed supporters, ready to voice their appreciation for the man they love; the man who is making them dream, and who is taking them on the wildest, most memorable ride of their lives.

They still believe, and why shouldn’t they? The ‘title decider’ may not have actually decided anything in the end, but Liverpool are still standing. Everything they ever wished for is still there, tantalisingly within reach.

At times on Sunday, it didn’t look as if that would be the case. Klopp’s side went through hell to keep their quadruple hopes alive. The 2-2 draw they secured against Manchester City may go down as the most hard-fought in Premier League history.

Liverpool were on the canvas twice but twice they rose and hit back with some hefty blows of their own. Through endeavour and resilience, and no little quality, they made it through to the final bell. 

A point apiece, naturally, keeps City in the driving seat. With seven games remaining, they know that seven wins will guarantee them a fourth title in five years and their fixtures, on paper at least, look kind.

It was their manager, though, who appeared more downbeat after the game.“We left them alive,” said Pep Guardiola, and you knew what he meant.

Just as at Anfield in October, City failed to convert early dominance into three points. Just as at Anfield in October, Liverpool emerged with a draw from a game they could easily have lost.

“If you don’t have luck in life then you are screwed,” Klopp pointed out. He knows that on another day, Raheem Sterling might have timed his run a little better or Riyad Mahrez would have chosen the right option instead of the wrong one.

He knows that Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara were a little fortunate to avoid red cards in the second half, and that his side can and will play better than they did. 

He knows that perfection is what is needed now. Seven wins and nothing less. Manchester United and Everton, Newcastle and Tottenham, Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolves. All of them must be beaten if Liverpool are to have a chance of title No.20.

“We knew it in January,” Klopp insisted. “We knew we had to win 18 games and if there was one we could draw then it was today. We drew it, so now let’s see.”

The common consensus is that Liverpool’s fixtures are trickier than City’s, but having won 10 of their last 11 Premier League games, they should fear nobody. The only sides to have taken points off them in 2022, indeed, are those directly above and below them in the table. 

Manchester United and Everton are fierce, traditional rivals who will command respect, but had Klopp watched their meeting at Goodison Park on Saturday then he’ll have seen little to worry him. At Anfield, Liverpool should have too much for both. 

Tottenham may present the toughest remaining hurdle. Antonio Conte’s side are in form and have, in Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and the impressive Dejan Kulusevski, the forwards to cause any team problems. It was Spurs, remember, who helped drag the Reds back into the race by beating City at the Etihad in February.

City will expect to win their four remaining home games - Watford, Brighton, Newcastle and Aston Villa - but could trips to Leeds, West Ham or Wolves prove hazardous? Guardiola’s men have hardly been flawless against the middling sides this season, after all. 

Could we be set for a repeat of 2018-19, when we all sat and waited for a twist which never came? Liverpool won their last nine league games that season, but were pipped by a City side which, improbably, won its last 14. 

Given the quality of this year’s teams, it would not be a huge surprise if they were to deliver similarly faultless run-ins, although the Champions League, in particular, could provide a significant distraction. Both are favourites to reach the semi-finals, even if City face an awkward trip to Atletico Madrid this week.

Whatever happens, it will be fascinating to watch. Two incredible managers, leading two incredible teams, with a seven-game shootout to find the winner. And that’s without even mentioning next week’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, or the looming prospect of a Champions League final in Paris at the end of May.

Maybe it’s time to appreciate what we are witnessing, time to sit back and enjoy the theatre that these two heavyweights are providing. If you can’t respect City’s quality, and if you can’t enjoy Liverpool’s, then quite frankly, you’re following the wrong sport. 

Sunday may not have given us closure in terms of the Premier League title race, but that’s no bad thing. Drama, tension and jeopardy are what make football what it is, and there should be plenty of all that between now and May.

Who will emerge triumphant, only time will tell. But judging by Klopp’s post-match reaction at the Etihad, Liverpool think they have more than half a chance.