Man City’s Liverpool battle means things can be different in Champions League for Pep Guardiola

Another weekend of the Barclays has passed and it was another when Man City and Liverpool won.

City’s victory was a bit more routine than their title rivals, it must be said. While Pep Guardiola’s men brushed aside Norwich with ease at Carrow Road, Liverpool labored to a slender 1-0 win away to Burnley.

As Pep Guardiola once famously said, trips to Turf Moor can be a bit like going to the dentist and there might be further teeth-grinding tension to come, with Jurgen Klopp’s men still nine-point shy of City with a game in hand.

While most believe that the title race is now a one-team event, with City’s win almost a formality given their relentlessness, Liverpool are still doing their part.

They keep nipping at City’s heels, winning the games they need to, which in turn keeps the pressure on Guardiola’s men.

And the nature of the title race this season could affect how far the club can venture in the Champions League this season.

Cast your mind back to the 2018/19 season, when City and Liverpool went toe-to-toe throughout the campaign. The two teams cut such a breathtaking pace in the fight for the title that Chelsea, who finished behind Liverpool in third, were closer to Newcastle in 13th than to the team immediately above them in terms of points.

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It was a contest to see who would blink first and, in the end, Liverpool’s eyelids flickered just enough. They only lost eleven in the league the entire season – when Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target at a raucous Etihad Stadium – but simply drew one too many matches.

City’s fierce battle with Liverpool had consequences, however. With the gap always marginal at best, Guardiola couldn’t afford to rest key players in domestic games before big European ones.

This was evident in the quarter-final first leg at Tottenham. With City having a vital game away to Crystal Palace the weekend before the return fixture at The Etihad Stadium, Guardiola had some unenviable decisions to make.

He elected to leave Kevin De Bruyne and Sane on the bench until the closing moments of a 1-0 defeat in north London, with Fabian Delph in from the cold at left-back.

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A side looking a lot more like Guardiola’s best XI won a pulsating 4-3 thriller in the return but, after Raheem Sterling’s VAR heartbreak meant City went out on away goals, the gamble ultimately failed.

As City prepare to resume their Champions League campaign in Lisbon, having added margin for error in other competitions will be beneficial with Liverpool on the march. Even if Klopp’s side win their game in hand against Leeds, a six-point gap is still a very handy cushion indeed.

There should be no repeats of the Tottenham plate-spinning from three years ago as Guardiola looks to complete his trophy collection in Manchester.

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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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