Rocked by their Champions League exit, can Man City fend off Jurgen Klopp’s ‘Mentality Monsters’? – Liverpool have slashed a 14-point gap from January, while Pep Guardiola’s men are starting to forge a reputation for choking
- Manchester City collapsed in dreadful fashion away to Real Madrid
- The European exit is combined with a 14-point lead on Liverpool being cut to one
- Jurgen Klopp’s men have a genuine chance of winning the quadruple
- For City, a trophyless season would be nothing short of a catastrophe
There are just four games left now in Manchester City’s season but after crumbling in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, there’s a lot more than 12 points and the Premier League on the line.
Carlo Ancelotti credited Real’s history as a reason behind their stunning fightback in the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night. ‘If you have to say why, it is the history of this club that helps us to keep going when it seems that we are gone,’ he said.
At City, for all the resources they now have, they are still carving out their identity as one of Europe’s heavyweight. But if things go much further wrong in their four remaining games, it will be difficult for them not to shake the tag of chokers – certainly compared to Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’.
Pep Guardiola (left) and Jurgen Klopp had two very different Champions League nights
Man City threw away a two-goal aggregate lead against Real Madrid by conceding twice in a minute against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu
A Luis Diaz inspired Liverpool, meanwhile, fought back from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 3-2
It can’t be forgotten that in January, after Liverpool drew 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, City had an 11-point lead over Jurgen Klopp’s men. In fact it was Chelsea who were the nearest challengers and ‘nearest’ is a loose term – they had a 10-point deficit to overturn.
That gap extended to 14 points at its highest but City will, fairly, point to Liverpool having two games in hand on them at that stage – so 14 points was effectively eight. But that is still a substantial lead for a team of City’s calibre and having it eroded to just one is a remarkable feat from Liverpool.
Virgil van Dijk all but conceded the title to City that day after Chelsea. ‘It’s a big gap, they maybe have the title to lose, but a lot can happen still,’ he said.
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, meanwhile, agreed that City were going to win the league.
‘If Liverpool had won [at Chelsea] and got the extra two points, and if they won their game in hand against Leeds, as you would expect them to do, then the gap to City would be six points, which would be very tough,’ Carragher said.
‘Once it goes more than that, and you need three games to catch up on Manchester City, I just don’t see it at all.’
But now, City have to show what they’re made of. The manner of Wednesday’s Real defeat is almost ideal for Liverpool. A shock late collapse that will damage confidence, extra-time and another 30 minutes on the legs and an injury to a key man in Kyle Walker. And there is also added scrutiny on Pep Guardiola, whose Champions League record goes further askew with every passing year.
The momentum is with Liverpool at present as they chase an unprecedented quadruple
Pep Guardiola now hasn’t won the Champions League for 11 years and has endured a series of shock exits from Europe’s major tournament
May 8: Newcastle (H)
May 11: Wolves (A)
May 15: West Ham (A)
May 22: Aston Villa (H)
May 7: Tottenham (H)
May 10: Aston Villa (A)
May 14: Chelsea (FA Cup final)
May 17: Southampton (A)
May 22: Wolves (H)
May 28: Real Madrid (CL final)
A curious starting line-up against Chelsea cost them the final last year, as it did the year prior against Lyon. Against Tottenham in 2019, a late Raheem Sterling goal was ruled out by VAR, meaning a 73rd minute goal from Fernando Llorente saw Tottenham advance on away goals.
Guardiola hasn’t won the Champions League for 11 years and eight of his previous exits have seen collapses where at least two goals have been conceded in under 20 minutes.
He will have to wait until next season for the chance to right that wrong on the continent. Now, attention has to turn to Newcastle on Sunday, and holding off the Liverpool surge.
Sometimes it’s easier to be the hunter as opposed to the hunted. It’s seen often in golf, when a player hits the front and with the leaderboard breathing down his neck, he fluffs his shot.
City might be deep in the bunker at the moment but it’s not a situation beyond repair. A tough tie against Newcastle lies in wait and they could even go into that match in second if Liverpool beat Tottenham on Saturday night – their hardest league match left this season.
For Liverpool, Ancelotti’s quote in the aftermath of their City win rings true for them as well. They have history of fighting back against the odds, when they look dead and buried – doing things the hard way.
When Liverpool drew at Chelsea in January, it was widely expected City would win the league
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti spoke of his club’s history inspiring their comeback against all the odds – and the same can be said of Liverpool
It would be almost stereotypical of Liverpool to wrestle the title from City by stringing together a relentless winning run and when all is said and done, City are still in the driving seat to defend their league title. Liverpool simply must win all their remaining league games to have a chance.
City’s run is more favourable as well. Newcastle, Wolves, a West Ham side who could be three days out from the Europa League final, and Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa is a kinder run than Spurs, Villa, Southampton and Wolves for Klopp’s side, who also have the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 14. It’s reflected at the bookies as well – City’s odds on winning the league have not shifted in light of Wednesday’s defeat.
But nobody can argue where the momentum lies. It may even help Liverpool to have so much on the line – the focus is less likely to wain and their confidence continues to grow as they fight for an unprecedented quadruple.
For City, they need to pick up the pieces and fast. A trophyless season would be nothing short of a disaster for all concerned.
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