News Matches
Manchester City

Liverpool and Manchester City's run-ins: Where the Premier League title will be won and lost

08:00 BST 16/04/2022
Jurgen Klopp Pep Guardiola Manchester City Liverpool Premier League 2021-22
The two sides are separated by a solitary point with seven games of the 2021-22 season remaining, so who will come out on top?

Never before has English football had a rivalry dominating the narrative like this. 

Liverpool and Manchester City play each other for the second time in a week on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final and results in midweek have, most likely, set us up for a third meeting in the Champions League final.

The two cup competitions will be decided in straight head-to-heads between the clubs, but a 2-2 draw in the Premier League meeting last Sunday means there is no such simplicity here. Instead, we must look to where they might drop points over their seven remaining games.

And they will almost certainly drop points. A theory has prevailed that Man City and Liverpool will repeat their 2018-19 run-in form by winning all their remaining games, but a remarkable situation happening once before is not enough evidence to assume it will happen again.

For starters, the Premier League as a whole is much stronger than it was three years ago. 

Liverpool’s final seven matches that year were against: woeful Cardiff City, Newcastle United, and Huddersfield teams; a Southampton side only just taken over by Ralph Hasenhuttl; a Chelsea team in disarray at the end of Maurizio Sarri’s tenure; a Wolves team with nothing left to play for; and a strong Tottenham Hotspur, who were beaten by an injury-time own goal.

Man City played: very defensive teams Brighton, Cardiff, and Crystal Palace; safely mid-table Burnley and Leicester City; a free-falling Manchester United; and Spurs, whom they beat 1-0 in an edgy match.

Things look harder this time, so here’s where and how Liverpool and Man City may drop points in the weeks ahead…

Liverpool's vulnerable to fast breaks

The biggest obstacle in Liverpool’s path is a home game against Tottenham on May 7. It might also be the final hurdle.

With so little on the line for their opponents, it seems unlikely that Aston Villa (a), Southampton (a), and Wolves (h) will put up much resistance in Liverpool’s final three matches – should Jurgen Klopp’s team have momentum by then.

Before the Spurs game, they ought to fairly easily beat a Man Utd team playing without any direction or motivation.

Everton at home looks particularly difficult, however.

Frank Lampard’s side have struggled consistently when asked to play adventurously by their new manager, but suddenly find focus when allowed to scrap from a deeper defensive position – as in the 1-0 win over Man Utd (37 per cent possession) or last-minute 1-0 defeat to Man City (31% possession)

The added motivation of the Merseyside derby means Everton can play a frustration game, packing the final third with players and throwing bodies on the line. 

What’s more, in Richarlison and Anthony Gordon they have attackers who are better on the counter, capable of breaking Liverpool’s high line via the distribution of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Alex Iwobi.

But more likely, it will all come down to the Spurs match.

Antonio Conte’s side have put together a run of four consecutive wins and now look favourites to get fourth thanks to the manager’s meticulously choreographed counters, built through Harry Kane dropping short as Dejan Kulusevski and Heung-Min Son make diagonal runs on the shoulder.

Along with the quick switches of play, and the longer passes from centre-backs to advanced wing-backs, Spurs have exactly the direct and transitional strategy to evade Liverpool’s counter-press before bursting in behind Klopp’s dangerously high line. 

Those are the two matches Liverpool fans need to be most wary of. For them to emerge victorious, more than anything else they need Mohamed Salah to rediscover his goalscoring touch; he is without a goal from open play since mid-February.

If Salah can hit another purple patch Liverpool should be okay, because they are less vulnerable to the sort of breaks Spurs or Everton could enact if able to surge into the lead. 

When Klopp’s team look like they can score with every attack – when Salah looks like he will score with every touch – the opponent becomes too frightened to hurt them on the counter.

Man City could be caught right at the end

On paper, Man City’s task is easier, but they have three matches that should concern their supporters – and they just happen to be their final three games of the campaign. Should Liverpool still be a point behind at this stage, they can be quietly confident.

Man City aren’t threatened by counters like Liverpool, but instead by tight defences able to grind out 0-0 draws like Southampton and Crystal Palace have managed this season.

The first that could end like this is a trip to Wolves (although this postponed fixture does not currently have a date, May 10 is pretty much the only one available). 

Bruno Lage’s side, still chasing a European place, have a decent ‘Big Six’ record this season and, crucially, have not lost any of these games by more than a single goal.

In a nervy contest at Molineux, it is certainly possible Pep Guardiola’s side will be held by a well-organised defence that has been a thorn in City’s side in the past; Wolves were very unlucky to lose 1-0 in the reverse fixture, a Raheem Sterling penalty the difference.

Next up is West Ham at the London Stadium, one of the most difficult places for a ‘Big Six’ team to visit. 

David Moyes’ side have beaten Liverpool, Spurs, and Chelsea at home this season. They also drew 0-0 with Man City in the EFL Cup and were unlucky in a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad.

In that game in particular, Moyes showed his powerful midfield partnership of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek can, from a low block, seriously frustrate Man City, slowing them right down to produce some stale sideways possession. 

The added pressure of the title race only increases the likelihood that the Hammers will grind out a point, even if they might now have a Europa League final to look forward to three days later, having qualified for the semi-finals on Thursday night.

Finally, though least likely, Aston Villa at home is a potential banana skin for the simple reason that Steven Gerrard would be desperate to help Liverpool win the title. 

Villa will no doubt be highly motivated, and their aggression through central midfield made them very competitive in a 2-1 defeat to Man City at the Etihad.

Liverpool can get caught on the break, Man City can get suffocated by a deep defence. Points will be dropped over the coming weeks.