Leicester City play key role in Man City-Liverpool rivalry and can spoil Klopp title dream again

Every great team needs a rival: an opposing force that pushes each side to the very limit of their capabilities. This is true of any sport but with football, all of the greatest sides, both domestically and abroad, have achieved greatness in part due to having a competitor who was constantly nipping at their heels.

In 1990s English football, Man Utd were first pushed by Blackburn and then Arsenal, with the latter forming one of the all-time great rivalries with United towards the end of the decade and into the next.

The great Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola were pushed to breaking point by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid at the beginning of the 2010s, with El Clasico games almost turning into something resembling a civil war than a game of football.

And in the modern era of the Premier League, Man City and Liverpool have proven brilliant sparring partners over the last half-decade, both inspired by the genius of each club’s respective managers.

It’s fair to say that both clubs wouldn’t have reached the pinnacle of the English game, and in such style, without Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Both are considered the pre-eminent coaches of the modern era, who have produced a string of Guardiola and Klopp imitators up and down the football pyramid.

Often imitated – but never duplicated.

City and Liverpool have pushed one another to a higher plane and one wonders how different the Premier League landscape would be if only one of Klopp or Guardiola had arrived.

When the history of the league is written on this period, it’ll always be recognized as their era.

While both sides have set the bar for excellence over the last five years, their rivalry has been punctuated by cameo appearances from Leicester.

In the 2018/19 title-winning season, Leicester compounded a miserable December for Guardiola, as they won 2-1 at home after City had taken the lead through Bernardo Silva. The defeat to the Foxes was on the back of a 3-2 away loss to Crystal Palace and, for a moment in time, it allowed Liverpool to hold a massive lead in the title race. An insurmountable lead, most felt.

But Leicester weren’t finished throwing spanners into the works that season. Less than a month after beating City, they held Liverpool to a draw at Anfield that saw Klopp’s side drop points for only the fourth time. That draw, in addition to City winning the direct clash between the pair earlier in the month, is viewed as a turning point in the direction of the title, with Liverpool subsequently drawing three of the next six games.

City meanwhile never looked back, winning every one of their last 14 games to secure the title by a point in what was a record-breaking season for Liverpool but who still ultimately fell short.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers (left) with Manchester City chief Pep Guardiola.
Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City side have tended to play a key role in the Manchester City and Liverpool title-race fights

Leicester were then involved in a key moment the following season. City’s title defense hadn’t got off to the greatest of starts, with a draw and a defeat in their opening five games derailing their momentum.

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Liverpool, by contrast, had won every one of their opening games. Against Leicester in early October it looked like they might actually drop points. But a late, very late, penalty from James Milner earned Liverpool a vital three points which, combined with City’s loss the following day to Wolves, extended Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table to eight points and ostensibly crushed City’s hopes of retaining the title .

Fast forward to season later and Leicester again repeated the trick, but only it was reversed. Brendan Rodgers’ men had done a number on City earlier in the season, winning 5-2 at the Etihad. By the turn of the year, City were back at the top of the table and, in February, Leicester decisively won 3-1 against Liverpool that all but extinguished the Reds’ aspirations of retaining their first title in 30 years.

Leicester’s momentum has dipped dramatically this season after consecutive campaigns in which they failed at the final hurdle of breaking into the top four. Yet they are still a danger on their day and have already beaten Liverpool in the league just after Christmas, putting a massive dent in their title hopes.

Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester City! That’s why we’ve decided to supplement our expansive City coverage on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform catered specifically to City fans – City Is Ours.

Writers and presenters who share your passion for the blue side of Manchester will be producing written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands as well as the press box.

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The two sides meet again tonight and Klopp will know that one more slip-up will be the end of their challenge for the season. With City’s charge to the title unrelenting, the margin for error is close to non-existent.

And if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that Leicester can’t be underestimated: the unofficial third wheel in the City-Liverpool dynamic.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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