Can City put the pressure on Liverpool for a top four spot?
City have edged ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League, and have a game in hand. With some difficult fixtures coming up for Rafa’s men, could this be the time for Mark Hughes’ side to pile the pressure on?
On current form City are looking good for a Champions League place with 16 points from 7 games. No team has ever finished outside the top four when averaging two points per game. City could lose their next fixture and still be on track.
However the top teams this season have started at a blistering pace, with Arsenal in fifth place also doing better than two points per game. Liverpool and Aston Villa are only a point off the pace, so it promises to be a terrific battle this season.
The growing wealth and talent gap between the top and bottom of the Premier League is clearly having an effect as fewer and fewer points are being dropped by the big teams. As a result consistency will be the key for City – not normally our forte.
When asked, every player and manager will trot out the familiar line about focussing on their own results and not worrying about anybody else. As every supporter can verify, looking at the results of others and their respective points total does matter.
Before the start of the season, the considered view was that Arsenal would be the most vulnerable of the ‘top four’, but their form has rebuked that argument even if they are currently fifth. Losing at Old Trafford and Eastlands is hardly a disgrace. Indeed, most neutrals thought they were the better side against United, and they were far from rubbish against City.
Instead could it be Liverpool who are looking the most vulnerable? On Merseyside they are still talking of challenging for the title, but that is their obsession. With three defeats already, they know they can’t afford any more. Yet the rest of October looks difficult.
On Saturday they go to an in-form Sunderland without Gerrard and Torres. Mascherano, Lucas and Insua are having to fly straight to the game after international matches in South America. Meanwhile Steve Bruce’s side will be full of confidence after nearly beating United at Old Trafford, and banging in five during their last home game.
On Tuesday there’s the first half of a tricky Champions League double-header against Lyon. After losing to Fiorentina, Rafa needs results and can’t afford to rest or rotate his squad.
Next weekend they host United, and after doing the double over them last season, it’s doubtful Fergie will be letting them have such an easy time of it again. October ends with a trip to Fulham, who are tricky opponents at the Cottage.
It’s possible that the title could be looking a rather distant prospect by the end of the month, and there would then be the question of how the players would react. Not everyone at Liverpool would have the same motivation for simply claiming a Champions League spot. To take one example, Javier Mascherano has openly spoken of being flattered by interest from Barcelona, and probably has distractions aplenty as captain of Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
There’s also the well-documented question of how Liverpool would cope with injuries to Torres and/or Gerrard.
In the same period City have Wigan away followed by Fulham at home and Birmingham away. Nine points insn’t beyond us, and our only other League fixture is Burnley at home before we travel to Anfield on 21 November.
The chance could be there for Mark Hughes to put some distance between ourselves and Liverpool in the coming weeks. The prospect is thrilling as the ‘big four’ are still the favourites for the Champions League places.
If Liverpool continue to slip-up and we maintain our consistency, then maybe the idea of looking only at our own results will be true afterall. I’ll probably still be keeping one eye on our rivals mind.