Liverpool vs Manchester City: The next big rivalry in English football?
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are two of the best managers in England. Mohamed Salah and Sergio Aguero are two of the best forwards. And you also have Virgil Van Dijk vs Aymeric Laporte, two of the best centre-backs in the league.
Liverpool and Manchester City have all the ingredients to be English football's next big rivalry.
The battle for the Premier League has further intensified after Liverpool suffered their first loss of the season to Manchester City. Tottenham Hotspur may still be in the race at third, but it is hard to imagine them keeping up with the big two till the end considering the lack of depth in their squad.
A big rivalry is in the making. Here is a look at some of the key factors that have led to this rivalry:
Klopp vs Guardiola
It does not get bigger than this: two top-quality managers who demand top-quality football. Back in the days it was the Ferguson-Wenger rivalry, and City and Liverpool look capable of recreating exactly that.
Klopp has had Guardiola's number in recent years. He has beaten the Spaniard eight times in 16 meetings, and has suffered only two losses at Liverpool.
Guardiola has often been forced to abandon or slightly change his core principles against Klopp's men in recent times. He has never been beaten to a league title by Klopp, but with Liverpool's consistent performances in the first half of the season, things could end up differently this time around.
Liverpool breaking the bank
This is something you usually associate with City. After a record-breaking season, it looked like Pep Guardiola's team would dominate the league for several years to come. But after spending large amounts of money this summer, Liverpool have enhanced their position as the only club in England that could challenge City this season.
Still four points ahead of City, if Liverpool can maintain their run of form, then 2019 may finally be their year.
Salah vs De Bruyne
These are the two standout players in English football over the course of the past year. De Bruyne has struggled with injuries this season, but there is no doubt that City are an entirely different team when the Belgian plays.
He was undoubtedly the best player for City last season with eight goals and 16 assists in their record-breaking campaign, but was beaten to the individual awards by Salah, who went on to score a league record 32 goals.
There has been a big debate between the fans on who is the better player, and that debate looks set to continue for years to come.
Last season, City were on a 22-game unbeaten run. But their streak came to a halt against Liverpool as they collapsed to a 4-3 defeat at Anfield. Many described the result as payback for their 5-0 thrashing of Liverpool at Etihad in the previous fixture.
Fast-forward to this season and Liverpool were enjoying a 20-game unbeaten run of their own. It was only fitting for their run to be ended by City, and that's exactly what happened. Sweet revenge for City indeed.
Lack of competition from other teams
The Premier League has always been known for its competitiveness. But this season it has been more of a two-horse race, with Spurs and Chelsea coming close but dropping points at crucial stages.
United would like to believe that their rivalries with City and Liverpool are bigger than any other rivalry. History may say corroborate that too. But at present, they are a long way away from them.
They cannot be written off yet and things seem to have changed under Solskjaer, but after a mixed start to this season, they may have to wait for some time to challenge the big two. Until then, Liverpool vs City is THE rivalry in the league.
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 20:48 IST