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Manchester City are under pressure to close the gap at the top of the Premier League
Liverpool have work to do as they seek to salvage a poor season with a top-four finish
We can expect an entertaining encounter in Saturday’s early game in Manchester
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The Reds will struggle to avoid defeat in this one, but they should at least be able to find the back of the net.
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Manchester City demolished Burnley 6-0 in their last game before the international break. That thrashing of Vincent Kompany’s side, who will almost certainly be playing in the top tier of English soccer next term, saw City book their spot in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Yet on the very same weekend, City lost ground in the Premier League title race. Arsenal are out of the FA Cup, so they were free to concentrate on their fight for a first championship crown since 2004.
Mikel Arteta’s men bounced back from the disappointment of being eliminated from the Europa League by beating Crystal Palace 4-1 three days later. Granted, their opponents were in disarray having sacked Patrick Vieira a few days prior. But it was still a highly accomplished display from the Gunners.
That result means Manchester City head into the weekend eight points adrift of top spot. What is more, Arsenal have a much easier assignment on the horizon, with relegation-threatened Leeds United set to visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. If City slip up against Liverpool, they will probably end the weekend 10 or 11 points shy of the summit of the standings.
Even then, their title chances would not entirely be over. Guardiola’s team have a game in hand on Arsenal, who still have to visit the Etihad Stadium. But a double-figure deficit would leave the reigning champions with a mountain to climb between now and the end of the campaign in May.
City have at least been pretty reliable in 2023: no team in the division, including Arsenal, can match their points-per-game record since the beginning of the year. Given they still have ground to make up in the title race, City must keep the pedal to the metal.
At this stage of last season, Liverpool were still fighting on three fronts. Jurgen Klopp’s team had already lifted the EFL Cup trophy and attempted to secure an unprecedented quadruple by winning the FA Cup, the Champions League, and the Premier League title.
Fast forward 12 months and it is already certain that Liverpool will end the current campaign empty-handed. Their last chance of silverware was the Champions League, but the Reds were recently eliminated by Real Madrid in the round of 16.
Qualifying for next season’s edition of Europe’s foremost club competition is now the only thing Liverpool still have to play for. And there is considerable work to do for Klopp’s side, who trail fourth place by seven points ahead of this tricky trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool do have two games in hand on Tottenham Hotspur, who currently occupy the fourth spot. But they have played the same number of matches as Newcastle United in fifth, and one more than Brighton & Hove Albion below them. In short, Liverpool must be near-perfect for the remainder of the season if they want to play Champions League football next term.
An upcoming triple-header brings difficult meetings with Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. A poor points return from those three games would in effect knock Liverpool out of the race, so the next week or so will go a long way to determining their fate.
The Reds have done an admirable job of pushing City all the way in recent years. They have been unable to keep pace this time around, but Klopp’s side are still capable of giving City one or two things to think about.
Liverpool’s chief shortcoming this term has been their pitiful away record. Indeed, whereas Klopp’s men rank third in the division at home, behind only Arsenal and Manchester City, they sit 13th in the away standings - below relegation strugglers Leicester City and Southampton.
Liverpool have failed to win 10 of their 13 matches at opposition stadiums, a record which has severely impacted their chances of finishing in the top four. Unless they can start picking up more points on their travels, Liverpool will be absent from the Champions League in 2023/24.
Yet they will find it difficult to improve their away record this weekend. No side in the division has a better points-per-home-game return than Manchester City, who are also the Premier League’s leading scorers in front of their own fans.
Still, there is reason to believe Liverpool can find the net on Saturday. Despite the fact this has been a disappointing campaign, they will play their usual front-footed game against City, rather than just sitting back and hoping for the best.
That does not necessarily make them any more likely to win, of course, but with the attacking talent they have at their disposal, Liverpool should be able to score at least once. Back goals at both ends and a Manchester City victory in this one.
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Teams: Manchester City vs Liverpool
Location: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Date and Time: Apr. 1, 2023, 7.30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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