Football is a funny old game isn’t it? Less than a year ago, Liverpool dominated, annihilating every team unfortunate enough to stand in the way of the Reds and their net. They recorded 99 points and scored a mindblowing 85 goals in the process playing the sort of Rock n’ Roll football synonymous with manager Jurgen Klopp.
Manchester City, meanwhile, limped to the end of the season wounded both literally, physically and metaphorically. With a defence depleted by injury and a lack of form, veteran midfielder Fernandinho did a sterling job in plugging the gap but the team’s weakened stance was clear for all to see. They may have scored 102 goals and only conceded two more strikes than Liverpool but they lost when it mattered, spluttering through games rather than controlling them and Pep Guardiola himself will assure you a team cannot lift the Premier League trophy with nine defeats to their name.
However, barely six months after Jordan Henderson and Co celebrated a first title win in 30 years at Anfield, it is City who go into the match as favourites when they go to Merseyside on Sunday afternoon. It is roles reversed compared to the last campaign. It is now Klopp working out a plan in how to negate being without one of the planet’s best centre-backs in Virgil van Dijk and it is Klopp who must decide which of his new signings, Ben Davies signed from Championship Preston or Ozan Kabak, on loan from Schalke, who will deputise and firm up the backline against City’s frightening frontline.
Guardiola will not be envious, safe in the knowledge summer signing Ruben Dias has been a virtual brick wall this season alongside a rejuvenated John Stones and top class Aymeric Laporte who has now started to feature again. He can name his line-up with no worries of temporary band aids falling off and exposing his side. They are strong, solid and serious contenders once more.
While Liverpool’s backline worries have dented the entire functionality of the starting XI and even hampered Thaigo Alcantara’s first season in red, City’s improved defence has built confidence at the Etihad and got the blue half of Manchester firing. Earning a club record sixth clean sheet in this week’s 2-0 victory at Burnley, they have licked the wounds they received last season and are back in the groove.
Football, it’s a funny old game. Bizarre, dramatic and packed with narrative, that’s why we love it and that’s why we’ll be glued to this title race to the very end. Anything, absolutely anything can happen. It’s a topsy-turvy campaign and Liverpool and City have swapped roles.