Prior to the international break, the door to an unlikely Premier League title race was left slightly ajar and now Liverpool are looking to smash it open.
Manchester City’s 12-game winning streak ground to a halt on Saturday as they were held to a draw by a spirited Southampton for a second time this season.
Liverpool took the rare chance to close the gap on the leaders at the top of the table by easing past Crystal Palace with a 3-1 victory and are now nine points behind.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s side does have a game in hand — against Leeds, which they would be expected to win — which would reduce City’s lead to just six points and the two teams still have to face each other.
It’s far from over yet, as Pep Guardiola has repeatedly insisted.
It’s impressive that Liverpool have kept the pace considering they have been without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita this past month due to the African Cup of Nations, but they look set to be adding to their attacking arsenal to give them an extra boost in the second half of the season.
It has been widely reported that Porto forward Luis Diaz is heading to Anfield after the Reds swooped in to take the Colombian out of Tottenham’s grasp.
It’s said that Liverpool were looking to sign the 25-year-old in the summer but have brought forward their pursuit due to Spurs’ interest and will sign him for an initial £37million.
Diaz is enjoying a great season in Portugal after really developing his game in the last two seasons, growing from an exciting winger who scored a few brilliant goals to a clinical finisher. He has 16 strikes, as well as six assists, in 28 games this term.
City learned of his quality, however, long before he became so ruthless in front of goal.
Back at the start of the 2020/21 season City came up against Porto in their opening Champions League group stage match. Although the Blues stormed back to win 3-1 they did fall behind after just 14 minutes, with Diaz grabbing the goal.
The move started when Ruben Dias’—who was playing just his third game for the club—saw his pass intercepted and Porto sprung a quick counter. Mateus Uribe cut out the ball and set Diaz away. He ran from just inside the half, across the pitch, all the way into the penalty area, evading the only half-hearted challenge that tried to stop him before firing into the bottom corner.
Although City eventually won, the goal still annoyed Dias who after the match didn’t hold back on his criticism of City’s defence.
“We cannot concede a goal like that,” Dias told BT Sport.
“Someone needs to stop him and we need to regroup in a better way but football is about mistakes and learning from them. The teams that learn better are the teams that grow better.”
Dias’ words obviously had an impact, as City didn’t concede in the Champions League that season again until the quarter-final first leg against Borussia Dortmund and went on to keep 18 clean sheets in the Premier League.
However, City now must keep Dias’ words in mind when they come up against Liverpool on April 9 as they know that just one mistake can be punished by Diaz. And the stakes could be much higher this time around.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.