Guardiola’s Treble Dream Faces Liverpool Test
Manchester City’s dream of winning a treble this season will face a litmus test as the Citizens welcome Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium in today’s Premier League early kickoff. Joao Cancelo’s blunder ensured the Reds ran away with the three points when both sides clashed in the first leg at Anfield and the league defending champions would be craving for a revenge this afternoon to keep the pressure on leaders, Arsenal, who enjoyed an eight-point lead before the international break. Only the red side of Manchester-United, have won the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup in one season and this is one record the ‘noisy neighbours’ is aiming to equal
Following a two-week long international break, the Premier League returns with Manchester City and Liverpool locking horns at the Etihad Stadium for a mouth-watering contest in today’s lunchtime.
Last season’s top two are both chasing different targets heading into the latter stages of this campaign, with the Citizens seeking to close the gap to league leaders Arsenal, while the Reds battling to make the top four.
Man City embark on an important stage in their season as they endeavour to get their hands on the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, and Pep Guardiola’s side will be keen to pick up from where they left off after putting together a strong run of form before the international break.
The Citizens have won each of their last six games across all competitions, including their last five without reply, with 7-0 and 6-0 drubbings of RB Leipzig and Burnley respectively, in which Erling Braut Haaland scored eight goals – two standout results that helped them progress into the latter stages of the Champions League and FA Cup.
Back-to-back Premier League fixtures against Liverpool and Southampton are up next for Guardiola’s side, who still sit second in the table and are tasked with reducing the eight-point gap to leaders Arsenal – who have played a game more if they wish to retain their top-flight title.
Victories over Liverpool in all competitions have been hard to come by for Man City in recent seasons and they have already lost two of their three meetings against the Reds this season, although a 3-2 EFL Cup fourth-round home win in December ended a five-game winless run against the Reds.
City’s Premier League home form against Liverpool bodes well ahead of today’s clash, though, as they have only lost one of their last 13 top-flight meetings against the Reds at the Etihad Stadium, suffering a 4-1 defeat in November 2015 under former boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Securing maximum points in the lunchtime kickoff will see the Citizens win four successive Premier League games for the first time this season and put the pressure back on Arsenal when they play host to Leeds United a few hours later.
Almost 12 months on from attempting to win an unprecedented quadruple before ultimately lifting an EFL Cup and FA Cup double – Liverpool have fallen some distance behind their rivals across all competitions this season and will end the current campaign trophyless.
Before the international break, Jurgen Klopp’s men followed up a famous 7-0 victory over Manchester United with back-to-back 1-0 defeats against Bournemouth and Real Madrid, with the latter confirming their elimination from the Champions League last 16.
Liverpool’s loss at Bournemouth, meanwhile, was their eighth in the Premier League this season, leaving the Reds sixth in the table and five points behind the top four, albeit with two matches in hand on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Klopp and co, who were remarkably 30 points better off at this stage of last season, have struggled for consistency away from home throughout the campaign and have picked up only 12 points from 13 Premier League matches on the road, losing seven times and failing to score on six occasions in the process.
Liverpool know what it takes to beat a reigning Premier League champion, though, having done so more times than any other team (23) in the division’s history, including the 1-0 win against Man City at Anfield back in October courtesy of a second-half strike from Mohamed Salah.
Claiming a much-needed victory today would not only lay down a marker to their top-four rivals, but would also see the Reds complete just their second league double over Man City in the last 17 seasons, with their first taking place in Klopp’s inaugural season at the helm in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, with 13 places and 43 points separating them in the Premier League table, Arsenal and Leeds United resume top-flight action at the Emirates this afternoon.
The Gunners hold an eight-point lead at the top, while the Whites are one of nine teams in danger of demotion to the second tier.
There was no post-Europa League exit hangover for Arsenal last time out, as Mikel Arteta’s side focus all their efforts on the title-run in for the next two months, but the Spaniard was quick to shoot down the sentiment that elimination to Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 was a blessing in disguise.
With their minor February blip now consigned to history, Arsenal are going in search of a seventh Premier League win in a row this weekend – Arteta is yet to hit such a streak since taking the reins and the title-chasers have also struck at least three goals in each of their last four top-flight contests.
Keeping the back door shut at the Emirates has not been one of Arsenal’s specialities this term, though, and if their trip to Molineux is anything to go by, Leeds certainly know a thing or two about making the net ripple on rival territory.
Leeds travel to the Emirates entrenched in 14th place in the table, but they only have a two-point lead over West Ham United in 18th – such is the volatile nature of the bottom-half standings and no side from 12th to 20th can consider themselves immune from the dogfight.