There won’t be any fans inside Etihad Stadium tonight, but I am still expecting it to be a very lively night. Manchester City will show Liverpool great respect with a guard of honour before the game, but it will hurt Pep Guardiola and his players to have to do it, and they will want to prove a point on the pitch afterwards.
The level Liverpool are at might depend on how much partying they have done since becoming Premier League champions last week. They deserved those celebrations but they have had a few days to get them out of the way, and my guess is they will want to be at their very best again when they play City.
This is a big game even without any silverware riding on it. Liverpool have already taken City’s title, and now they want their records too – most points, biggest title-winning margin and most wins.
That is what Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will be demanding. His side have been the best in the country by a million miles this season, and they will want to show that yet again, against their nearest rivals.
With seven games to go, Liverpool can win a possible 107 Premier League points this season, which would beat the current best, the 100 points earned by City’s ‘Centurions’ of 2017-18. City also hold the records for biggest winning margin (19 points, 2017-18) and most wins (32, 2017-18 & 2018-19). Liverpool are currently on 86 points, 23 points clear, and have 28 wins from 31 games.
Big difference between the top two is at the back
As far as the game itself goes, I’m expecting more of what we have seen from both sides over the past few months.
Both teams have been incredible going forward but City are certainly not as strong as Liverpool are defensively, and I don’t see them keeping the Reds out.
Guardiola offers ‘big congratulations’ to champions Liverpool
At the back is where City are furthest behind Liverpool at the moment. When you combine Aymeric Laporte’s long-term injury in September with Vincent Kompany’s departure last summer, then you can see why it is a position they have struggled in.
Kompany was their captain and so often their driving force. Immediately after he left, they had to cope without their best remaining centre-half.
They have not had a dominant player in that department all season, so I am sure it will be a priority for Guardiola to put it right when the next transfer window opens. Before then, he is going for more silverware. The title is gone but City are still trying to retain the FA Cup – as they did the Carabao Cup – and going for the Champions League too. It could still end up being an incredible season for them if they land all three.
Whatever else they win this season, City will want their Premier League title back next year. What won’t help them is that, 12 months after Kompany left, they are about to lose another one of their greats in David Silva. They have got an exciting talent in Phil Foden who will get his chance to step up, but he has got a huge hole to fill.
When you look at how much Silva has won, what he has achieved and what he has given to our game in his time in England, the Spanish midfielder deserves to be remembered as one of the best foreign players we have seen in the Premier League. I would put him in the same bracket as Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, Manchester United great Eric Cantona and Silva’s brilliant City team-mate Sergio Aguero. You could even argue he is better than all of them.
Since joining City in July 2010, Silva has won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups. I don’t like comparing players’ achievements, especially when they are in different positions, but Silva has been absolutely magnificent, and for 10 unbelievable years he has been the heartbeat of this City team. Even without him, though, they will still expect to put up more of a challenge to Liverpool in 2020-21.
The same goes for Manchester United; I can see them getting closer next time. Chelsea too – they might still be a couple of players short of winning the league, but they are heading in the right direction.
Henderson is my player of the year
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson on how manager Jurgen Klopp celebrated with his players. We know all about Liverpool’s strengths by now – how they are so good defensively, and that they can score goals from most positions, including their full-backs and centre-halves.
In the past, their midfield might have been seen as being more functional than City’s, which has Silva and Kevin de Bruyne in there – but not any more. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is my player of the season, and he has been magnificent in everything he has done. Collectively, Liverpool’s players have had an amazing season, but they are brilliant because of more than just their results.
I watched them beat Crystal Palace last week and, when they were winning 4-0 in the last minute, every single one of them was charging around trying to win the ball back. That epitomised the hunger and desire that makes them the team they are under Klopp, and what he demands of them.
It would have been easy for Liverpool to feel sorry for themselves after they just missed out on the title last season. Instead, they won the Champions League and then have gone from strength to strength.
They got off to a great start by winning their first eight league games of this campaign, and they have just kept on going – they have been absolutely relentless. City’s defeat at Chelsea last week meant their two-year reign as Premier League champions was ended before Liverpool visited the Etihad
To have only lost two league games in the past two seasons is just ridiculous, really. That tells you how good they are, and don’t waste your time trying to argue this is a weakened Premier League either. Liverpool have not always been at their best in that time, of course. But they keep getting results because of their attitude and also because that is just what great teams do.
Let’s not forget the number of times they have been absolutely amazing to watch, either. The way they battered Palace was a reminder of just how good they are, and I am sure we will see them give the same treatment to more teams this season. Liverpool’s next challenge – keeping their crown
We will attack Premier League title, not defend it – Klopp
In the past, Klopp’s Liverpool have had to respond to disappointment and have bounced back the following year, but now they have a new challenge, which is to retain their crown. We know how tough that is, because City were the first team to manage it in a decade when they did so in 2019.
The great Liverpool teams of the 1970s and 1980s did not just win a European Cup and a league title, like this Reds side has done in the past few months, they went out and won both multiple times.
That has to be Liverpool’s target now and they have the tools they need. As well as a brilliant manager and players, they have the right mentality for repeated success. Their team is definitely young enough too – none of their first-choice side were born when the club last won the league title, in 1990.
I don’t look through their team and see any areas where they need to improve – or many places where a new player could get in – but the trick for sustained success is to strengthen while you are at the top, not just when you are trying to get there.
There might be a turnover of squad players, bringing in more people like Takumi Minamino to try to put pressure on those who are first choice. But what definitely won’t happen this summer is star players leaving Liverpool. The way things are going under Klopp, why would they want to?
Courtesy : NNC Sport – Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.