Nearly four weeks on from Liverpool’s first defeat in the league, to current champions Manchester City – a game which was the definition of a ‘six-pointer’ – and City have been the first to flinch in this title race.
The Premier League returned midweek after a weekend break for the fourth round of the FA Cup and the drama was not to be delayed by any means.
The situation heading into Gameweek 24 was that City trailed Liverpool by 4 points, with City playing the night before – allowing them to put the overnight pressure upon the Reds (who play Leicester tonight). Spurs, sat a little further back in third, were 9 points adrift from the league leaders before a kick of the ball; and to play on Wednesday evening, against Watford.
The Cityzens got off to the perfect start as they visited Rafa Benitez’s struggling Newcastle side, a team still yet to make a signing to bolster their relegation threatened side.
Sergio Aguero fired the visitors to a 1-0 lead with just 25 seconds on the clock but despite an expected onslaught for those hailing from the North-East, Rafa had a different idea for the night’s script.
The away side were left to be frustrated throughout the remaining 89 minutes of the match as Newcastle when on to do the unexpected – turn around a goal deficit to the champions of England.
The comeback was sparked by Rondon who scored in the 66′ minute to the delight of Scouser’s globally. Things went from bad to worse for Pep as Fernandinho, whose full role and influence within this City side was supposedly realised during his absence last month, fouled Longstaff inside the box for a penalty which Ritchie converted. 2-1 Newcastle.
Rafa had managed to architect one of the biggest upsets of the season in picking up 3 points at St. James Park last night – something which may kick start Newcastle’s campaign to remain a Premier League side come the end of May.
Is the Race over?
Benitez’s ties to Liverpool are the headlines this week, as the man who did the impossible in Istanbul winning the Champions league with Liverpool after being 3-0 down at HT, done the impossible for Newcastle and simultaneously massively scratched the back of Jurgen Klopp – who seeks to extend his side’s lead at the top of the Premier League to 9 points.
Despite this setback, Pep was intent on reminding Liverpool not to count their chickens too soon.
“Well, it’s a lot of points if they go on to win, but we are in January, it’s not April or May. There are still many games and anything can happen,” he said.
“A lot of teams are playing many reasons, teams to stay in the Premier League, others to go to the Europa League, for the Champions League.
“In our case, every game, we have to do our best to be there, try to not give up, move forward and try another time and another time.”
These comments were to be expected of Pep – someone for whom failure has, and never will be, an option and thus until mathematically impossible, he will keep on fighting to pip Liverpool and whoever to retaining their crown.
Yet, with just 14 games remaining in the league, City with a final due to be played at the end of February, still in the FA cup and the only common commitment between City and Liverpool being the Champions/Premier leagues – the mountain to be climbed by the Cityzens seems to only be growing.
Liverpool will head into tonight’s clash with Leicester with an air of comfortable calmness, knowing that even a slip up tonight doesn’t alter the scenario they found themselves in at the end of last weekend’s play.
With the two sides already playing each other home and away – City have no opportunities to pick points directly up off Liverpool and so are hoping for a cataclysmic collapse from the Reds; something of the 2013/14 season’s scale.
Pep can remain as optimistic as he’d like, but with this defensively strengthened Liverpool outfit, the summit which Pep has his sights on reaching is only getting higher and higher and consequently, as the weekend’s pass and Liverpool’s W’s continue to occur, further out of his reach.
This is how last night’s fixtures leaves the table looking:
For me, it’s Liverpool’s trophy to throw away.
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