Man City take decisive step in title race but draw against Liverpool leaves no margin for error

For a match that so stirred so many emotions, it was difficult to know how to feel once it had finished. That sentiment was almost summed up by Pep Guardiola’s own reactions after Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

“I felt we let them have a life,” was one line in his press conference, illustrating clear regret at not having made the game – and the title – secure.

In private, however, he’d told his players to not be in any way regretful. Guardiola knew they’d put in a superb performance.

The truth was that Liverpool were probably lucky not to lose by a few, let alone draw. Jurgen Klopp’s side could also take great pride in coming to claim a point. It could have been so much worse. And yet it is actually that bit worse for Liverpool. The title is no longer in their hands. They now need a favor from someone, to make City drop points.

That was the real effect of this game, which was entertaining but not decisive. It changes perspectives.

It’s now all about the run-in. Klopp said it “really starts” with his side’s home match against Manchester United next Tuesday, which of course comes after another crunch match against City, in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

These are the kind of complications that could influence what follows. Because the issue for the moment is that, when looking at those run-ins, City’s looks so much more forgiving.

It doesn’t just seem like they will win all of their games, but you can see a situation where they are storming into leads in some of them to enjoy forgiving affairs. The potential wrinkles perhaps come away to Leeds United, Wolves and West Ham United but much will depend on those teams’ own circumstances.

The trickiest of the games, at the London Stadium, will be a very different trip if David Moyes’s team are playing in the days before a Europa League final in Seville.

Liverpool meanwhile have a series of potential pitfalls. The eye is drawn to the next two league games against their greatest rivals in United and Everton, but form dictates Klopp’s team should actually win those fairly easily. Anything else would be a great surprise.

The truly decisive game, at the very top and the top four, could well be the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on 7 May. Antonio Conte’s side could even threaten to challenge Liverpool’s high line almost as much as City.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola embrace after the match

(Getty Images)

At the same time, such a view perhaps represents an old-fashioned perspective on the run-in, that these two teams have actually changed.

Sunday’s 2-2 draw only emphasized their level, and both are well capable of just going and winning every game regardless of anything else. Both are certainly aware of the need to.

“We knew it in January,” Klopp said. “We knew in January if we wanted to win it we have to win 18 games and if there is one we can draw it was today. We drew and now let’s see. We have now two massive games for us: we have Benfica on Wednesday and City again Saturday and then after that it really starts, we have to be ready for our derbies. Yeah, but it’s actually cool, it’s good, we are where we want to be, we are close to an incredible side.”

These sentiments were echoed by Guardiola.

“We know now that one game and a dropped result, then we will not be champions,” the Catalan said. “Will it be easy? Absolutely not but it will be difficult for them too.

“Seven games in the Premier League is a lot [to win] – they are tough games and they have tough games. I don’t know what will happen but the way we performed throughout the season and against this team to perform the way they did – I am proud. I wanted to win but it doesn’t matter. It was so good.”

And that’s the thing. Ultimately, it was probably better for City than Liverpool, even if they had a sense of waste.

We won’t really know the truth for another few weeks.

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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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