Liverpool’s match against Manchester City will have some bearing on which way the Premier League title goes, but a home win would not end the race by any means, writes Michael Hincks.
Expect to hear the phrase “one hand on the Premier League trophy” this weekend. Almost definitely before Liverpool welcome Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday, while it’s a near-certainty after, should the hosts take all three points.
A win would take Liverpool nine points ahead of City going into the final international break of the year, and have Reds fans believing that this really is the season they end what would be a 30-year wait for league glory.
But football is never straightforward, and whether the gap is extended, cut, or kept at six, this will not be the match that decides the title…
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English football’s newest rivalry?
Yes, essentially, and it’s borne from the fact these two are streets ahead of the chasing pack.
Both clubs may have a greater disdain for Manchester United, but the post-Ferguson struggles at Old Trafford have led to Liverpool-City clashes emerging as the most eagerly anticipated affairs in the Premier League.
"In the last two years each game we play is the most decisive. Not one where anyone says 'we can lose that'," Klopp said.
"It's a big game, two really good teams. The best news is that it's at Anfield under the floodlights.
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"Everything is on a plate, nobody hides anything. If you're not brave against Man City you don't have the chance of even a point. You have to create, but your positioning and protection must be perfect.”
Meetings since 2015-16
Nov 2015 - Manchester City 1-4 Liverpool - Premier League
Feb 2016 - Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City (City win 3-1 on pens) - League Cup
Mar 2016 - Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City - Premier League
Dec 2016 - Liverpool 1-0 Manchester City - Premier League
Mar 2017 - Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool - Premier League
Sep 2017 - Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool - Premier League
Jan 2018 - Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City - Premier League
Apr 2018 - Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City - Champions League
Apr 2018 - Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool - Champions League
Oct 2018 - Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City - Premier League
Jan 2019 - Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool - Premier League
Aug 2019 - Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City (City win 5-4 on pens) - FA Community Shield
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Their last league meeting in January proved to be a pivotal one in the title race, as City – aided by a John Stones clearance 11mm before the ball crossed over the line – closed the gap to four points when Liverpool led the way at the turn of the year.
City went on to win the title by a point, with Liverpool’s only league defeat of the campaign coming at the Etihad.
And while that loss reeled Liverpool in, it was ultimately a run of four draws in six games between late January and early March which saw them lose their grasp on the title.
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Similar margins will be at stake on Sunday, but there are significantly more games too. No game coming in the 12th matchweek can be labelled a title decider.
City meanwhile, host Chelsea immediately after the international break and then take on United at the Etihad in December before the Christmas fixtures pile up – which includes matches at home to Leicester and away to Wolves.
Man City's December
Dec 3 – Burnley (A) - Premier League
Dec 7 – Man Utd (H) - Premier League
Dec 11 – Dinamo Zagreb (A) - Champions League
Dec 15 - Arsenal (A) - Premier League
Dec 18 – Oxford United (A) - League Cup
Dec 21 – Leicester (H) – Premier League
Dec 27 – Wolves (A) - Premier League
Dec 29 – Sheff Utd (H) - Premier League
If we are looking at potentially crucial moments in the league calendar, it is difficult to look past City’s run of games in early 2020.
Pep Guardiola’s side are set to face Tottenham and Leicester away before hosting Arsenal in February before then travelling to Manchester United and Chelsea in March.
That all comes before City v Liverpool at the Etihad in early April. Tantalisingly placed as there will be six matches left each afterwards.
It’s safe to say that match has the makings of a title showdown, but how things will be shaping up by that point is anyone’s guess.