Given the form Manchester City are in, given their limitless resources and the structural advantages that come from being an established sportswashing front for a human rights-abusing petrostate, even in December a six point gap seems daunting.
It’s certainly conceivable they’ll drop six more points—based on their season form, they might even be expected to drop nine—but Liverpool will need to be nearly perfect the rest of the way to close the gap. It’s a tough ask, but one the players say they’re up for.
“There are still a lot of games,” Diogo Jota told said when asked about the challenge that faces the Reds. “Obviously there is a gap now between us and them. We know there is that gap but we also know we are able to close that gap and that’s the plan.
“But we need to avoid what happened against Leicester because if we keep doing the things we did in that game, it’s going to be hard for us. We know that. So it’s up to us to recover from that game, regroup, and go again—because we are able to.”
To do that, though, will be additionally difficult due to their next opponents. Heading on the road to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is, on paper at least, the second biggest challenge to facing City themselves. As hoped-for rebound games go, it’s a hard one.
Competing for and perhaps winning a league title was never going to be easy, though. Especially up against the wealth of a sovereign state rich on oil and happy to use their money to further their soft power goals with little concern for balancing the books.
“It is what it is, we cannot pick who we are playing next,” Jota added. “We know it’s Chelsea away. We drew with them at home, we know it’s not going to be easy. We both want to close that gap but we know at least one of us is going to be even further back.
“So, it’s a great game, a big game. We need to be at our best—I know if we do that we are able to win the game there.”