A month ago, it was Liverpool as underdogs in the title race, the Reds chasing defending champions Manchester City. Heading into Thursday’s match between the two sides, the roles have unexpectedly been reversed.
City are seven points behind now and know that nothing less than a win will do to narrow the gap and put the kind of pressure on Liverpool that might just cause the new leaders to slip up in the second half of the season.
Hearing the City players talk about their chances now, then, rather unsurprisingly sounds rather like what one might have expected to hear from Liverpool’s at any point previously over the last season and a half or so.
“If we can play the way we know we can play, we can beat anyone,” was Raheem Sterling’s take when the ex-Red was asked about his side’s chances. “It’s going to be a great game on Thursday and we’re looking forward to it.”
After setting the pace throughout the autumn, City struggled through a December that saw them drop nine points to Chelsea, Crystal Palace, and Leicester while winning just twice in the league—against Everton and Southampton.
While a loss to Chelsea might be excusable for a title favourite, the back-to-back defeats to two sides in the bottom half of the table were not, and now City are counting on Liverpool slipping up similarly in the coming months.
Even then, if they don’t shrink the gap to four points on Thursday, any mistake by the Reds might still not be enough. City seem aware of that—and they will come at Liverpool hard, treating the match like a cup final.
“We had two poor games and we knew we needed to win [against Southampton] to give ourselves a chance,” Sterling added. “Our previous two results were difficult to take and I thought we bounced back brilliantly.”
“We played some great football and controlled the game, which we know we can do. Now it’s up to us to keep that focus and go on to the next one.”