Jon Flanagan says Sunday's potential title decider against Manchester City will be the biggest game of his young career. Of course, given the 21-year-old fullback has rather unexpectedly gone from spare part to guaranteed starter in six months, there may not be all that much competition. However, while it's likely to be the biggest game of his career, it won't be the first time he faces Manchester City at Anfield in April.
Nearly three years ago to the day, Flanagan was given his first team debut under the returned Kenny Dalglish. It was in a match against Manchester City, and it was at Anfield. And with more than a little help from Jamie Carragher alongside him and Lucas Leiva helping to cover from his holding midfield role, Flanagan was solid and Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 victory on the strength of an Andy Carrol brace.
"I’ve got great memories of the first time I faced City," said Flanagan. "Walking out at Anfield that night was very special. I only found out I was definitely playing when Kenny Dalglish told me two hours before kick-off. There were a few nerves but as the game went on I settled and just focused on doing my job. Winning 3-0, it was a brilliant night to be part of. I’d settle for the same result on Sunday."
Three to nil for the home side wouldn't be too bad a result for Liverpool fans, either. And with Flanagan likely to face Jesus Navas when he takes up his position at left back, the youngster will have to be at his best in this biggest game of his career. If he can be, and if it helps Liverpool to a result similar to the last time he faced City at Anfield in April, he could find himself having played a key role in Liverpool's first title of the Premier League era.
"This is definitely the biggest game of my career," added the fullback who grew up within shouting distance of Anfield. "Playing Manchester City at Anfield in a top of the table clash with both teams going for the title—it doesn’t get any bigger. We’re going into it full of confidence on the back of nine straight wins. We’ve got five games to go and we want to extend this winning run right to the end.
"We were not expected to be up there at this stage of the season. We’re at least a year ahead of schedule. But now we find ourselves in the title race and we want to take advantage. In terms of the title, Sunday is a must-win game for both teams. I know there could still be some twists and turns, but winning this game would give you a massive boost going into the final four matches."
Win this game, and Liverpool become favourites for the title. It still wouldn't be easy from there of course, with plenty of room to slip up over four more pressure-packed matches, including one against third favourites for the title Chelsea. Win on Sunday, though, and few will doubt Flanagan and his teammates have a very good chance of dealing with that pressure and ending the season champions.
"We know what they’re all about but we’re just concentrating on ourselves and what we do," he said. "We’ve got our game plan. We’ve done well in a lot of big games this season and this is another one we believe we can win."