Man City vs Liverpool lived up to Sky Sports’ hyperbole and then some on Thursday night.
Pep Guardiola edged out long-time adversary Jurgen Klopp in a game of ultra fine margins — 11 millimetres to be precise.
John Stones’ knife-edge goal-line clearance was the perfect microcosm of a captivating contest in which several players impressed to the extreme.
Fernandinho chewed up and spat out any Liverpool player unfortunate enough to enter his gravitational pull.
Virgil van Dijk put on a defensive masterclass, adding weight to the campaign calling for him to be acknowledged as the best centre-back in the world right now.
But Bernardo Silva, bloody hell.
In a game that was almost immersive, watching the Portuguese international slide in on Trent Alexander-Arnold in stoppage-time was enough to give some armchair fans a stitch.
The game’s postmortem revealed he covered more distance than any other player in a Premier League fixture this season.
13.7 kilometres of lung-bursting effort thoroughly appreciated by his manager.
“He did everything,” said Guardiola. “He won all the duels.
“It’s a long time since I’ve seen a performance like he did in all terms – not just with the ball because he is precise, he is clean, he is clever.
“But he fought with [Virgil] Van Dijk and made him uncomfortable. Big compliments because Bernardo was incredible.”
Big compliments indeed.
Last season, Liverpool overpowered City in the Champions League quarter-final, largely through an industrious midfield.
Klopp had a similar at the Etihad, naming James Milner and Jordan Henderson alongside Gini Wijnaldum in hope of out-running City in the middle of the park.
However, the Reds failed to account for 5ft 7in Bernardo’s alter ego — an inexhaustible hound dog who takes a sick and twisted pleasure from the build-up of lactic acid.
In a game of fine margins, every millimetre counts.
Suddenly 13.7km acquires perspective.
Bernardo covered a similar distance (13.65km) at Wembley back in October when City beat Spurs 1-0.
His endurance has twice given City the edge over the two fittest teams in the league, to the naked eye.
The most remarkable aspect of these two performances is they came from a player known for his creative output.
The 24-year-old has directly contributed to 13 goals in 25 games so far this season (seven goals, five assists).
He is in possession of perhaps the best first touch in the league.
Bernardo is perhaps the most 2019 player in the world — a tireless playmaker.
Given the ever-increasing demands of the modern game, in terms of intensity and physicality, it is no surprise classical No10s are dying out.
The age of the lethargic, technically-gifted creative midfielder are numbered — just look at how much grief Mesut Ozil endures.
These days attacking midfielders need to be magicians in possession and muggers without it.
And Bernardo is leading the way — what a player.
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