Man City need to be wary of Liverpool’s unexpected title race advantage – James Findlater

Pep Guardiola knew it, and now everyone else does too. Manchester City are in a title race.

It may have looked as we were heading for a procession at one stage, but with a side like Liverpool challenging them, it was never likely to be as easy as many had predicted.

And so it proved on Saturday evening as, in the most dramatic of circumstances, City’s defeat to Tottenham left the door open to their closest, and only, rivals.

Liverpool of course still have it all to do, such is the juggernaut created by Guardiola, but if any side are capable of overhauling this City side, it is the proverbial “pain in the a**”.

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And it’s not just in the Premier League where Jurgen Klopp’s side pose a threat to City – they’ve already been tipped as the biggest threat to the Blues lifting their first Champions League crown this season, while the two sides are, unsurprisingly, the favorites for the FA Cup as well.

We’ve been used to seeing City dominating on all fronts over the past few years, but after Saturday, it’s impossible not to feel that there has been a slight shift towards Anfield.

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The Reds’ acquisition of Luis Diaz looks to be a shrewd bit of business, with the former Porto man looking ready-made for the Premier League and it’s afforded them a luxury that even City can’t currently boast.

For the first time in years, Liverpool looked to have the strongest bench. So much so that even with a couple of their key forwards out on Saturday, Klopp was still able to make the changes needed to turn things in his side’s favor against Norwich.

Manchester City have been forced to name some of their young players on the bench in recent games
Manchester City have been forced to name some of their young players on the bench in recent games

With his side 1-0 down to the Canaries and things not quite clicking, the German called upon Thiago, with the former Bayern Munich maestro able to supply the spark that had been missing for them. Just a few days earlier, he was able to call upon both Roberto Firmino and Diaz to make a difference against Inter Milan. Such is their strength in depth at the moment, Curtis Jones, who has impressed so often when called upon, didn’t even make the squad on Saturday.

For City though, options are much more limited.

With Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish out injured, Guardiola wasn’t able to make the same impact with his substitutions against Tottenham. The Catalan made just the one change as his side tried to get back into the game.

Of course, Guardiola has never been one to ring the changes if he doesn’t feel they’re necessary, but with his side in the unfamiliar position of chasing a game on Saturday, it was telling the options he had to call upon.

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In truth, Riyad Mahrez represented his only viable option – his only other senior players on the bench were Scott Carson, John Stones, Nathan Ake, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fernandinho, while it would have been asking an awful lot to throw on one of Liam Delap , James McAtee or Romeo Lavia in that situation.

City still looked in control of proceedings, but when you come up against a side that are holding firm and proving difficult to break down, your substitutions can be the factor that can turn things in your favour.

These next few weeks could prove crucial now in the title race. If Jesus and Grealish are to remain out, then City’s ability to change things during games is limited. Liverpool on the other hand find themselves in a position they’ve craved to be in over City for years – even during their title-winning campaign, they couldn’t boast the same strength they currently have.

If City can get through this period without some of their attacking talent unscathed, it could be the deciding factor in them holding off their rivals in the title race.

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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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