EPL

Title race all but over as City fail to respond to Liverpool statement

By Sports Desk December 27, 2019

Throughout the first half of the 2019-20 Premier League season, the contrast between the performances of Liverpool and Manchester City has been stark.

Unbeaten and unbelievably consistent, Liverpool have been largely infallible as they have taken their form from last season's incredible title race between the two same sides to the next level. The sole blemish on the Reds' domestic season to this point is a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

City, meanwhile, have slogged through a campaign in which injuries have exposed a lack of depth at the back and left them to struggle against inferior opposition on several occasions.

Their defeat at Anfield, a stadium where City have not won since 2003, in November was no surprise given their desperate record at the home of the league leaders, but losses to Norwich City, United and Wolves - who became just the second team to complete a league double over Pep Guardiola's City - were marks on the ledger few anticipated.

The difference between Liverpool and a City side that look increasingly likely to be surrendering the title come May was laid bare at Molineux in a remarkable game.

Only 24 hours earlier, Liverpool, less than a week removed from their Club World Cup final win, breezed through what was seen as their toughest challenge of the season.

Jurgen Klopp's men came through a seemingly tricky trip to Leicester City in style, controlling the game from start to finish en route to an emphatic 4-0 success.

It was a display to silence any lingering doubters questioning whether Liverpool can finish the job from such a commanding position, and City's showing in the Midlands only served to further talk that this title race is becoming a procession for the Merseysiders.

Indeed, what City produced against Wolves was the antithesis of what Liverpool delivered at the King Power Stadium. Any hope of controlling the game was lost when Ederson raced outside the box and caught Diogo Jota as the Portuguese bore down on his goal. A straight red card forced a reshuffle in which Sergio Aguero was withdrawn to allow Claudio Bravo to slot in between the posts.

Stunningly, 10-man City did manage to assume control as a twice-taken Raheem Sterling penalty gave them the lead 25 minutes in, albeit he had to pounce to net on the rebound. WIth five minutes gone in the second half, the same man made it 2-0 at the end of a wonderfully worked break and City looked set to emerge unscathed and with a morale-boosting away win.

However, just five minutes later Wolves had hope. Adama Traore rifled in from the edge of the area to punish Sterling sloppily losing possession. Yet, even as Wolves pushed and pushed, City looked relatively comfortable, but their defensive frailties emerged once more and helped Wolves complete the turnaround.

The much-maligned Bravo proved dependable in goal, but he could do nothing about Wolves' equaliser. Benjamin Mendy, known more for his injuries and social media activity than any defensive capabilities at this point in his City career, was out-muscled by Traore on the right byline, and he teed up Raul Jimenez for a tap-in.

Matt Doherty completed the comeback as he played a one-two with Jimenez and was allowed to work his way past three City defenders before lashing a left-footed effort beyond Bravo's despairing dive.

Chelsea are the only other team to complete a Premier League double over Guardiola's City, doing so in his first season. City finished that campaign third, the position they occupy now as Guardiola's side sit a massive 14 points behind Liverpool.

Asked about that gap after the match, Guardiola was considered and stopped short of declaring the title race over, but deep down he will know overhauling Liverpool is a near-impossible task.

Whereas Liverpool look emboldened by running the champions so close last season, City appear exhausted by their astonishing exploits of the previous two terms. The frantic finale at Molineux likely ensured there will be no such grandstand finish in May and as 2019 draws to its conclusion, the title race is all over bar the shouting.

Related items

  • He said I was like a rapper – Mane remembers Klopp meeting He said I was like a rapper – Mane remembers Klopp meeting

    Liverpool star Sadio Mane revealed Jurgen Klopp said he was "like a rapper" as he turned down the chance to sign the attacker while at Borussia Dortmund.

    Klopp opted against signing Mane during his time at Dortmund, where he was coach from 2008 to 2015, a decision he later said was a mistake.

    Mane felt the Liverpool manager had made an error, joking about how Klopp had perceived him at the time.

    "He said I was like a rapper!" Mane told The Guardian.

    "But I think I gave my best so what can I say? That's part of life – you never know how you are going to get along with people. But I think he was wrong for sure.

    "It was an experience for me as well though. I knew I had to show him more until we met again."

    Together at Liverpool, Mane has developed into one of the world's best attackers under Klopp.

    Mane praised the German for his belief in his players, highlighting Liverpool's incredible comeback win over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

    "What makes him special is that he never stops believing," Mane said.

    "In the meeting before the game he was really convinced that we could do it, even though we were missing two of the best players in the world [Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino].

    "He pushed the boys hard to give everything possible and tried to take the pressure off us."

  • Coronavirus: Liverpool will win Premier League title even if season is cancelled – UEFA president Coronavirus: Liverpool will win Premier League title even if season is cancelled – UEFA president

    UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin sees "no way" in which Liverpool could be denied the Premier League title this season despite the coronavirus pandemic.

    Liverpool were 25 points clear atop the table when the campaign was suspended due to coronavirus last month.

    It remains unclear when, and if, the season will resume, but Ceferin said Jurgen Klopp's men were almost certain to be champions, giving the club their first top-flight title since 1990.

    "I see no way to keep Liverpool untitled," he told Slovenian sports daily Ekipa.

    "If it is played, then they will almost certainly win it – theoretically they have not reached the guaranteed level, but it is practically close.

    "However, if it could not be played, it would also be necessary to announce the results in some way … and then the champions should be determined. And of course again I don't see a scenario that would not be Liverpool.

    "I understand that fans will be disappointed if it happens in an empty stadium or even at a green table, but I believe they will win the title in one way or another."

    However, Ceferin insisted the plan was still for leagues around the world to be completed.

    "I just spoke hypothetically," he said. "We are also preparing for such scenarios, but we are not dealing with the details for now.

    "At this point, we are fully committed to completing the competition."

  • Coronavirus: Messi hailed as 'global example' amid footballer pay-cut debate Coronavirus: Messi hailed as 'global example' amid footballer pay-cut debate

    Barcelona star Lionel Messi is "a global example" when it comes to the debate over footballers and pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a sports psychologist.

    Messi issued a statement on behalf of the Barca first team on March 30 to confirm that the players had agreed to a 70 per cent reduction in wages to help to ease the financial burden on the club while football is largely at a standstill.

    The players are also making further financial contributions to ensure Barca's non-playing employees can take home their full wages while LaLiga remains suspended during Spain's nationwide lockdown.

    Atletico Madrid announced last week that their players would be taking a similar pay reduction.

    The decisions from two of Spain's top clubs encouraged debate over the practices of the Premier League elite, whose players are yet to announce any definitive agreement on wage reductions or financial contributions towards frontline health systems.

    Tom Bates believes Messi and Barca's example will help to encourage other clubs to follow suit while the COVID-19 crisis persists.

    "The players that I have spoken with from the Premier League all the way through, they have different perspectives, naturally," he told Stats Perform.

    "One of the things that the guys have said is, 'Well, actually at our club we are quite a wealthy club, so we could probably afford to keep our staff paid, but other clubs in different leagues won't be able to do that'. Others feel like taking a pay cut to keep their staff on board is absolutely fine.

    "The classic case is Leo Messi, who started this and was one of the first players to take a 70 per cent pay cut in order to make sure the staff at Barcelona were able to carry on working, and I think that really is a global example to everybody when you're talking about that level in money in wages, and that type of athlete.

    "I am very privileged: I have met Leo Messi and [Pep] Guardiola over there in Barcelona together as a team, and it doesn't surprise me that they are leading the way with this.

    "If there was going to be a global example of a player out there doing something for the greater good of their club – and he embodies that for me – so, in my professional opinion, if you can afford that and if you're able to support by taking a pay cut, then clearly those who need it the most are going to benefit."

    Bates also praised the influence of former Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney in encouraging conversations around mental health.

    Writing for The Times, Derby County star Rooney outlined how the suspension of the football calendar could have implications for the mental wellbeing of players who have seen their routine grind to a halt.

    "Wayne is in many ways an ambassador, he is a cultural leader for the game, especially because what he has achieved at international level, and certainly to be continuing his career even now and still performing at a very high level encourages others to do the same," Bates said.

    "When you have somebody like Wayne come and be very open and very honest about mental health on a global level within the game, that can only be a good thing because it encourages others to have conversations, to open up conversations and be courageous enough to talk about their own mental health, and of course talking about it is the first step to improving it."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.