Are Manchester City down and out? Are Liverpool champions elect? With few teams better than City at playing catch-up Stephen Tudor backs the chasers...


Even those who bristle at the term 'six-pointer' being used before Easter will have to concede that this weekend heralded a seismic shift in the title race.
An away win would have meant that all was still to play for with Manchester City right back in contention and this despite experiencing a surprisingly mixed opening third to the season. A home triumph for Liverpool however - their 13th consecutive league win at Anfield - has resulted in the Reds further stretching their lead and now enjoying a sizeable cushion over their main rivals.
Nine points. In the highly pressurised environs of a title charge to have such margins for error can prove precious and priceless indeed.
Yet if the points mean probable prizes there were other important considerations at stake on Merseyside this weekend. The manner of their victory will have given Liverpool an invaluable top-up on an already abundant supply of confidence - they blitzed the two-time Premier League champions with effort to spare - while the momentum that has seen them enjoy the best start to a season since Spurs' double-winners in 1961 continues. They remain unbeaten. They have played all of their traditional top six peers and taken 13 points from 15. They appear to be unstoppable.
Contrasting this City's fortunes have taken a nosedive. Defensively they look vulnerable and out-of-sorts while losing a quarter of their games heading into the November international break would have been an inconceivable notion only last May as they celebrated another incredible campaign.
Psychologically they must now be wondering how on earth they can halt the Liverpool juggernaut. Sunday was their chance and they simply stood in front of it.
All of which means that Jurgen Klopp's men are 1.48 to lift an inaugural Premier League crown six months from now and that's a very fair price. Read on though and you'll find an even better one...

1) City have paid their Anfield toll

It would be admittedly very silly to discount the six-point swing that so recently occurred but when viewing the more revealing bigger picture it is necessary to do so.
In Pep Guardiola's first season in Manchester his team lost 1-0 in L4 and clung on for that. They finished third in the league, two points ahead of Liverpool.
A year later the iconic stadium hosted a basketball-style encounter that ended in a 4-3 defeat while there was a 3-0 spanking in the Champions League for good measure. Yet City were ultimately crowned as champions with Liverpool a full 25 points adrift.
Last season's 0-0 stalemate saw Guardiola's creation completely abandon their principles and seek out a smash-and-grab so wary were they of Liverpool's attacking threat. Again the Blues won out by the season's end.
Add in the fact that City last won at Anfield in 2003 and we can surmise that losing there is a tax that needs annually paying in order to have an otherwise successful year. It's an anomaly, distinct from form or circumstance.

2) They have clawed back Liverpool before

If getting their Anfield hoodoo out of the way offers a modicum of reassurance next up is restoring their belief and that can be found in a mightily impressive comeback last term that frankly gets nowhere near the credit it deserves.
Halfway through the season City were ten points behind - with a game in hand - and such was the gap that even when Liverpool began to drop points it was still necessary for the reigning champions to win their remaining 14 fixtures. They did, beating Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham on route.
Here we saw a very different side to the Catalan's team with game-management seeing tight contests out and a collective fortitude driving them on.
The learned behaviour from this period will serve the squad well while for their opponents it could come back to haunt them if history begins to repeat itself.
Manchester City are a tempting 3.60 to make it three in a row next spring. Even if you don't think they will ultimately do enough to win it, there is mileage for a back-to-lay on the Betfair Exchange as that price will soon come in if City start eating up Liverpool's lead.

3) Injury list will lessen

From Leroy Sane's cruciate ligament rupture sustained in the Community Shield right up to the present Manchester City have been seemingly cursed this season with injuries both muscular and long-term.
In the lead up to the Liverpool clash six first-teamers were unavailable none of whom were more crucial or missed than Aymeric Laporte: as substantial a loss to the Blues as Virgil Van Dijk would be for Liverpool.
In the event Rodri was declared fit with David Silva making the bench and this is a trend that will only increase through the winter months. Oleksandr Zinchenko is set to return imminently and January could well see the first tentative appearances of both Sane and Laporte. It's a cliché but let's indulge anyway - those two will be like having new signings.

4) Liverpool yet to suffer misfortunate

Granted Joel Matip is currently out while Alisson has also spent several weeks in the treatment room but overall it could be said that a good deal has gone Liverpool's way since August; from opposition goalkeepers committing howlers, to the bounce of a ball, to having a squad relatively free of injury.
That is not to say that they haven't earnt such prosperity - they have been nothing short of sensational - but still it will be interesting to see how the league leaders cope minus one of their formidable front three when the fixtures begin to congest.
Each team's strongest eleven is comparable to the other but unquestionably it is City who have the better strength in depth. That could still be a big factor as the season progresses.

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