Manchester City and Liverpool play with a tight draw

Phil Foden

Phil Foden
Photo: beautiful pictures

The only result between Manchester City and Liverpool this morning that could make it the “title decider” (that’s how it’s built by every outlet that broadcasts it) is a Man City win. A four-point gap at this point of the season, which requires City to play two games while Liverpool top the table, is always unlikely. Today’s 2-2 draw didn’t quite get us there, but it was close.

What we can say is that this is clearly the arch-rival in the world soccer world right now. Not so long ago, it was Real Madrid and Barcelona. Some time before that it was Juventus and Inter. Man United and Arsenal also held positions for a minute there. Obviously two of the best teams in the world, a most anticipated and most watched match. The difference being the games between these two soccer kaijus is that it always lives up to the hype.

Like their game at the Etihad in 2019, or earlier this season at Anfield, the quality is simply unmatched. Every attack is complex and staged in a boiler room, with the pressure each team creates while defending and pressing, but it seems that each team only takes about 10 seconds to score. with only the smallest gap. At the same time, somehow, each defense can look impenetrable in the long run even with the most designer weapons thrown at them repeatedly. There is no other game on the calendar that requires concentration and rhythm on both sides of the ball like this, when played at the “we went plaid” speed and inside a pregnant witch’s cauldron. atmosphere.

Overall, City are the better team in both games against Liverpool this season, and will feel unlucky not to win. However, their one-point lead at the top of the Premier League table would be a well-deserved salvation for that disappointment. Liverpool is the only team in the world that can push Man City to a level that only they can achieve. While there was a bit of luck for City’s opener, Kevin De Bruyne’s shot deflected Joël Matip sending it whirling and into a corner Alisson couldn’t reach, providing a quick assist and free kick. is de Bruyne’s latest display of genius. .

De Bruyne was a menace all match long, taking up a position that kept Fabinho pinned back when City had the ball, but ready to press Fabinho or the Liverpool defense when they lost it to keep Liverpool from getting out on a counterattack that is usually venomous.

But the thing about the level Liverpool push City to is that even City can’t maintain it for 90 minutes. Even if City can rightly claim they only dropped off for a brief section of the match here or there, that’s more than enough for the individual quality Liverpool have to break through. Like say the pass Thiago plays in the leadup to Diogo Jota’s equalizer:

The rest of the first half was City imposing themselves, instigating the only press that can turn Liverpool’s back four into jittery middle schoolers at their first dance when they normally are most comfortable playing their way out. City is also capable of their own individual brilliance, and it usually comes from João Cancelo, doing things like this guided missile of a cross-field ball for Gabriel Jesus to put them ahead 2-1:

Such are the margins for these two teams that Trent Alexander-Arnold is only fractionally behind the rest of his defensive line to keep Jesus onside, but that’s all it takes. City spent most of the first half weaving their way through what is a pretty slow Liverpool midfield, with De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling consistently popping up between the lines that Liverpool couldn’t track. When LIverpool did get their press going, City stole a page from their book and pinged field switching passes out to their fullbacks to bypass it.

But again, the level City get pushed to, that is only reachable by them, can only last so long. There was clearly a bit of a drop to start the second half, which only took Liverpool 48 seconds to exploit:

City’s press, which had driven the Reds mad in the first half, dropped before and after Mane’s goal, which saw Liverpool with just about their only period of dominance in the match. After that, as physical and mental fatigue set in, both teams were vulnerable but neither could get through the other’s last line of defense. Not surprising, considering these are the two best defenses in the game.

The last time these two went eyeball-to-eyeball, the aforementioned January 2019, the match and title were decide on 11.7 millimeters. There are bound to be margins of that miniscule size at play in this game, whether it’s Raheem Sterling’s winner missed for a pubic offside, or Riyad Mahrez’s side shaved free-kick. off the post, or his missed shot in the second half injured time that could have won it. If Man City fail, they will curse the things with the best profit margins in this match.

But now, like then, that is City’s advantage. Liverpool have a harder time in the fight, and they will likely have to wipe them all out. And even that may not be enough. City may not face a team in the league that have much to play for the rest of the way. Wolves’ European hope is only a thread. Watford could be relegated all but nominally at that point. Leeds may be safe. West Ham’s Champions League chase could turn tough when they host City on the penultimate weekend of the season. Or they can focus on the Europa League.

Meanwhile, Liverpool still have to negotiate about the strongest team outside of them or Man City in the Spurs, and Spurs have probably beaten them once this season. Everton will work hard to avoid relegation. A Newcastle suddenly became much more unexpected, hardly a day in the sun.

The tie results in the margin of error for each basis being zero. That’s probably the way it should be, since games between these two also have no margin for error. They intend to do this forever.

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