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Is Liverpool-Manchester City A Rivalry?

It might not be historic, like other great footballing rivalries, but this fixture is becoming more than “just another game.”

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool and Manchester City will once again renew (on field) hostilities tomorrow at the Eitihad. If there is a winner in the contest, they will emerge as clear favorites to take the Premier League title when the season concludes in a month and a half. It is as close to a “title decider” as you tend to get in club football.

And this isn’t the first time that these two sides have faced off in decisive matches in recent seasons. There was the epic battle in 2013/14, when Liverpool won the April battle, but ultimately lost the war in May. There was the League Cup final in 2015/16, which again went City’s way. Liverpool knocked City out of the Champions League in 2017/18, denying them a chance at the trophy that still eludes them. In 2018/19, 11mm stood in the way of a Liverpool equalizer, costing them both the battle and the war. And in 2019/20, Liverpool decided the title far earlier in the season, running City out of Anfield en route to storming the league.

Over the course of the next week, these two sides will clash twice more, first as the last two teams who can feasibly win the league, and then as two of the last four sides who can lift the FA Cup. One of these great sides will be left wanting in at least one, if not both, of these competitions. And to add fuel to this season’s fire, these sides very well might meet in the Champions League final.

These two sides are simply two of the best teams, with two of the best managers in the world right now. One team could conceivably win a quadruple. And the other could conceivably win a treble. And the only team that really looks capable of derailing those hopes is the team up, or down, the M62.

However, this is all very modern history. Indeed, until Manchester City’s takeover in 2008 (and subsequent excellent display in sportswashing and financial doping), there really was no history to speak of between the two clubs.

Now, City have bought themselves a spot at the “Big 6” table, and were it not for Liverpool’s pesky meddling, they would be well on the way to turning the Premier League into yet another 1-team league.

All great rivalries need to have an on-field component. The teams need to be playing against each other for something. For example, Everton plays for pride and red cards when they come up against Liverpool. And as highlighted above, there have been no shortage of on-field drama between City and Liverpool.

There is also the off-field component to consider, and how the two fanbases (one massive, the other City’s) perceive each other. Liverpool consider City—with a great deal of justification—nothing more that a sportswashing machine for a horrible petrostate regime. City, on the other hand, believe they are breaking up the “football cartel” of traditional powerhouses. As such, these clashes become as much a morality play as a football match.

It is good against evil.

It is an emerging rivalry, and therefore difficult to know how to judge it. It doesn’t get the blood pumping like Everton or Manchester United. And yet, it is far more likely to decide which—if any—of the remaining trophies Liverpool will get to adorn with red ribbons.

This matchup might never get tagged with the “derby” label. And it might be relatively short-lived. Abu Dhabi might get bored with football. Liverpool might go back to competing for fourth after Klopp retires. Manchester United or Arsenal might get their shit together at some point.

Regardless, these battles between City and Liverpool will be remembered as some of the best of the Premier League era. So put any label you please on it, but be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.