Manchester City and Liverpool are both lauded for their attacking play, with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp each having incredible attacking players at their disposal. But while the prowess of Premier League top goalscorer Mohamed Salah and prolific midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is remarkable, the title race will likely be decided by the ability to stop goals rather than score them.
With just seven Premier League matches to go, City sit one point above Liverpool. The Blues have conceded just 20 goals all season, while the Merseysiders have conceded 22, the two lowest tallies in the league.
Over the past five years, the lowest number of goals City conceded in a single season was 23, when they edged Klopp’s side by one point after a remarkable season which saw the sides finish on 98 and 97 points respectively. The season prior, Guardiola’s side became the first English club ever to reach 100 points in a Premier League season, eclipsing the rest of the league to finish with a 19-point lead over nearest rivals Manchester United.
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But in the season following their narrow victory over Liverpool, City’s defensive stability lessened. They finished the season having conceded 35 goals, whereas Liverpool conceded 33, and Klopp’s side won their first title in 30 years.
In fact, since the Centurion year, Guardiola’s side have won only one title when they have conceded more than 30 goals – last season. Liverpool also experienced a big drop-off in their defensive capabilities last term, as the long-term injury of Virgil van Dijk hit Klopp’s side hard, resulting in the Reds finishing third in the Premier League having conceded 42 goals.
But this season has seen the return of both sides’ defensive consistency, meaning that the title race could go down to the wire much like it did in the 2018/19 campaign. Guardiola and Klopp’s sides have met twice in the Premier League this season, with last week’s 2-2 draw emulating the stalemate from earlier in the season.
Both teams have scored the most goals in the league this season, by some way. City have notched on 72 occasions, whereas Liverpool have 79 goals to their name – the next closest side is Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, who have 64.
Klopp’s side are currently in the midst of a remarkable 12-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, which dates back to 2021 when Leicester defeated them. By comparison, Guardiola’s team are currently unbeaten in five league matches, but prior to the 3-2 defeat by Tottenham in February, City had gone 15 league fixtures without a loss.
Both sides have kept 18 league clean sheets so far this season and are targeting historic trophy tallies. City have the opportunity to win a treble, whereas Liverpool are targeting an unprecedented quadruple.
The Premier League is one of the trophies that the managers desire, and you get the sense that despite the attacking prowess of both sides, defensive resilience will be the deciding factor.
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