Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
As the old cliché goes, these title clashes are often decided through a moment of magic or a moment of madness. In the end, it was two of the latter.
After 72 minutes’ worth of tense, tactical warfare between Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, goalkeeper Alisson’s misplaced pass allowed Ilkay Gundogan the chance to score his second of the game. Moments later, the rattled stopper gifted City their third. From there, Liverpool’s title defence looked over and City ran away with it.
With City storming and Liverpool faltering, we look at what is going on with both, as well as taking a glance at the Premier League title odds.
What is wrong with Liverpool?
Alisson’s errors were the headline, but Liverpool haven’t lost three straight home games due to the Brazilian. There are bigger issues for the Reds, which seem to stem from their obvious gaps at the back.
Pep Guardiola clearly sent his men out to target the makeshift pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson at the back. That worked for their missed penalty, opening goal and Gundogan’s second. In the end, a previously cagey game with little space gave way and Phil Foden showed no fear as he charged at the Reds’ backline.
However, the impact on the team is bigger than just those defensive issues. Liverpool only impressed in the 10 minutes before City’s penalty. That came when the sluggish visitors stepped back, allowing the Liverpool centre-halves to step forward. They essentially filled their own midfield void, dictating play from the middle of the park. However, this City side were never going to surrender that space for long and the game once again drifted away from the champions.
Guardiola’s English switch
Pep Guardiola made big changes at half-time, pushing Bernardo Silva up front alongside Phil Foden. It was Guardiola’s big changes that allowed City to take over the game, as he ultimately stretched the Liverpool defence by sliding Foden out to the right flank, with Raheem Sterling already a standout on the right-flank. Gareth Southgate take note.
Even without a recognised central striker City were a brilliant force going forward, with Ilkay Gundogan surging forward as an old school number eight to find the net twice and continue his fantastic run. While they had to recover from a rare defensive mistake, the Citizens showed their tactical flexibility to thrive creatively with Kevin De Bruyne missing.
Henderson and Fabinho – so used to having Virgil van Dijk behind them to sweep up the danger – looked lost as they chased the buzzing blue shirts by the end.
Is the title City’s to lose?
With Liverpool 10 points shy of the lead having played a game more than City, their hopes of retaining the title seem over. Betfair are offering a big price of 25/1 on the fourth-place side clawing back the gap and finishing top. If anything, that looks too short, while the Reds are also a razor thin 1/4 for a top-four finish, despite sitting just five points clear of ninth.
With United frequently choking in big games under Ole Gunanr Solskjaer and the rest of the pack 10 points out or worse, it’s hard to see City not winning their third title in four seasons come May.
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