Liverpool predictably put Leeds to the sword at Anfield last night.
The Reds strolled to a 6-0 victory in front of their home fans to further intensify a title race that looked a formality just a month ago.
Man City’s lead has been cut to three points with 12 games to play – already Liverpool’s trip to the Etihad on April 10th looks pivotal.
There can be no doubt that Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have overseen the two best Premier League clubs of the last five years and the standard required of one to beat the other is stratospheric.
In 2018/19, Liverpool lost just once and finished on 97 points, a winning tally in all but one of the 26 Premier League seasons that came before, and they were still edged out by City, who achieved 98 points.
In fact, the four highest points totals in the competition’s history have all come from either Klopp’s Liverpool or Guardiola’s City.
Most points in a Premier League season:
- Man City 2017/18 – 100 points
- Liverpool 2019/20 – 99 points
- Man City 2018/19 – 98 points
- Liverpool 2018/19 – 97 points
The current season is another example of the sky-high standards the rivals demand of each other.
City won 12 league games in succession between the start of November and late January.
Their only indiscretions since have been a 1-1 draw with Southampton, in which they had 74% possession and registered 20 shots, and last weekend’s dramatic 3-2 defeat to Spurs.
Under normal circumstances, these results either side of two comfortable wins would barely constitute a wobble but that’s all it has taken to bring Liverpool back into the title picture.
The sustained high standards works both ways of course.
Klopp’s side are averaging 2.7 goals per league game this term, have only lost twice, and recorded their sixth consecutive win last night – yet they’re still chasing City, hoping for slip-ups.
The top three goalscorers in the league right now are all Liverpool players: Mohamed Salah (19), Diogo Jota (12) and Sadio Mane (11).
That in itself is remarkable but doubly so when combined with the fact the top three assist-providers are also Anfield residents: Salah (10), Trent Alexander-Arnold (10), Andy Robertson (9).
If you didn’t know the league situation it would be perfectly reasonable to assume the team with the three top scorers and the three top creators would be striding to the title unopposed, but that’s not the reality.
The Premier League may be where the two teams are in direct competition but the quest for supremacy extends to other realms.
This Sunday, Liverpool take on Chelsea (prolific trophy winners themselves) in the Carabao Cup final in hope of readdressing the balance of the domestic cups, which has been heavily weighted in City’s favour in recent seasons.
Both should progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup having been drawn against Peterborough (City) and Norwich (Liverpool) respectively.
And both have one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals after first-leg victories in the Champions League.
City actually have everything except a toenail in the last eight after thrashing Sporting CP 5-0 on Portuguese soil while Liverpool will be confident of completing the job against Inter after a 2-0 win in Milan.
Europe remains the final frontier for Guardiola’s side and they will be more focused than ever having fallen at the final hurdle last season.
The Reds would love to add a seventh European crown to their impressive collection but with memories of 2019’s glory relatively fresh in the mind, there’s a sense they would love to surpass City in the league even more.
Certainly, Klopp’s side would be good value for more than just the one league title, though the historic nature of 2020’s triumph makes it a special one in the club’s history.
We don’t know how much longer these two clubs, led by two truly brilliant managers, will maintain their record-breaking standards but for those enthralled by football of the highest level, every day of their rival should be savoured.