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Liverpool Getting a Head Start in Title Race Against Manchester City

Another international break, and another look at what has happened, and what’s to come as the Premier League title race continues to take shape.

Liverpool FC v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Yes, yes, Everything is the Best, but we’ll start with the one bit of bad news since my last title update from the last international break. And it is, incidentally, where the last piece left off: unfortunately we did not beat Manchester United, nor did we get Ole sacked.

That’s where the bad news begins and ends, not just since the last international break, but since the start of the season.

These fucking Reds are boss.

If we want to be critical, Liverpool didn’t make this run of 10 points out of 12 easy on themselves. The Reds conceded first in each of the first three league matches since the last international break. That’s not a good sign, even if they managed to salvage an incredible 7 points from those three losing positions.

If we want to be less critical, they led from the start in the most crucial match of them all: the six-pointer against Manchester City. Liverpool also managed to win both Champions League fixtures since the last season interval, putting themselves top of the pile in Group E, and giving themselves the opportunity to win the group outright with one match to go. And also managed to progress in the League Cup in one of the maddest games of footy ever played.

But that is all looking backward. It’s a luxury we have now during the break, but one that we can’t have if we want to keep doing the business week in and week out. And we’ll have to continue winning if we’re in the business to gain 100 points. And we’ll have to win 100 points to ensure we continue pushing Manchester City for the title. These are the rules in the post-Pep, post-oil rich City EPL world.

Liverpool also made it ever so slightly harder on themselves to reach 100 points. Prior to this run of games, we needed 76 points from the remaining 30 matches, or 2.533 points per game. Now we need 66 points from the remaining 26 matches, or 2.538 ppg. Either way, to reach 100 points, the Reds would have to average slightly less ppg for the rest of the way in than they managed over all of last season.

The Reds are currently averaging 2.833 ppg; it’s obviously unsustainable over 38 matches, but holy shit it is fun right now.

City, on the other hand, need to be nearly perfect: 25 wins and 1 loss to reach 100 points from here, or 2.884 ppg. For the record, I’m not writing them off ever again. We’ve been here before. The bastards won 14 out of 14 to finish the campaign last season. But, it’s still a very strong position for Liverpool.

By beating them, Liverpool reduced City’s number of total points they can reach, down from 106 to 103. Hey, it’s progress, right?

And because “Lucky Liverpool” have been anything but in their title ambitions for 30 years, we’ll just go ahead and assume we need 104 to pip City to the title. Last year Klopp said we needed 105, so it’s an improvement! To reach 104 for the season, Liverpool need 70 points the rest of the way in: 22 wins and 4 draws, or 23 wins, a draw and two losses. The crazy part? That doesn’t seem that far-fetched based on current form.

These Reds have made it through the toughest part of their fixture list, and are top of the pile by 8 clear points, and 9 ahead of City. We have played every team in the so-called top 6, and beaten every team in the actual top 6 (we see you there, Leicester City and Sheffield United).

And now things descend into the madness of the traditional English holiday fixture list, with an extra sprinkle of madness thrown in by the combined geniuses at FIFA and the EFL (see: the Immutable Law of Multiplicative Idiocy).

The first two fixtures will likely set a tone for the rest of the hectic month: away to Crystal Palace and home to Napoli. The former, of course, has some recent and unspeakable history. The latter is reminiscent of a nervy but hugely significant triumph from last year. A win against Palace, paired with the City-Chelsea clash, will strengthen our position in the league, and get this run off to a good start. A win against Napoli ensures that we can heavily rotate in the last group match against Salzburg, and also gives us a leg up for the rest of the month.

Failing to get results in one or both matches? Things can get dicey in December and beyond. But even then, I trust Klopp and this group of players to quickly right the ship. These Reds have done exceptionally well over the last two Christmas periods, and it’s no shock that Klopp’s charges thrive in a bit of chaos.

By the time the dust settles, just as the FA Cup gets properly underway in early January, we should have a much clearer idea of how this season will shake out. Will it be another nail-biter to the end? Or, will Liverpool shake off the demons of the past, and continue bossing this league from start to finish?

I can’t wait to find out.

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