Man City implosion against Real Madrid could help Liverpool as trophy race intensifies
Manchester City have made a lot of history under Pep Guardiola, but now they can head to the ignominy of adding their name to the list of sport’s greatest chokers. To make matters worse, City’s failures could accelerate Liverpool’s path to an unprecedented treble.
This week has reminded us that nothing is certain in football until the final whistle. Real Madrid’s incredible comeback against City Champions League the second leg of the semi-final, when they scored twice in stoppage time to add extra time and then won 3-1 (6-5 on aggregate) came just 24 hours after Liverpool had looked his own humiliation in the face as he gave up a 2-0 first leg against Villarreal at half-time before winning 3-2 (5-2 on aggregate) in Paris later this month.
89 minutes into the Santiago Bernabeu, City were heading to the final and still on course for a Premier League/Champions League double. But now they face Newcastle at the Etihad on Sunday knowing they could end the season with nothing if they fail to win the remaining four league games to keep Liverpool at bay.
City are currently just one point clear, but they were 12 points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the table. premier league after a 2-0 home win against Brentford on February 9. Jurgen Klopp’s side had two games in hand but nonetheless City held a significant lead so they didn’t just waste it at the Bernabeu. To lose such a Premier League lead would be the worst collapse since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United handed Man City the title in 2012, despite holding an eight-point lead with six games remaining.
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There is, of course, the possibility that Liverpool could also fail this season and end up lifting only the Carabao Cup, which they won by beating Chelsea 11-10 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in February. , despite all the talk of an unprecedented four-trophy campaign. Chelsea could avenge that defeat at Wembley by winning the FA Cup final against Liverpool on May 14. City could stabilize to win the league title, while no one would risk dismissing Madrid’s prospects of winning a 14th Champions League at the Stade de France in May. 28.
But football is all about momentum, and Liverpool have plenty of it. City lost theirs and Liverpool will draw additional strength from the implosion suffered by Guardiola and his players. As City crumbled against Madrid, Liverpool strengthened their resolve to snuff out Villarreal’s return to the Estadio de la Ceramica. Liverpool greats rose to the occasion when they had to face Unai Emery’s side, but just when City needed a game-winning performance from Kevin De Bruyne, the midfielder was so anonymous that he was replaced in the final stages.
Nedum Onuoha and Steve Nicol break down Manchester City’s latest UEFA Champions League surrender.
Recent results and performances suggest City are hanging on tight at the same time as Liverpool seem to be getting stronger and more determined. One theory is that Klopp’s side have a stronger mentality because they were forged through adversity. Before it all kicked off at Anfield, Klopp’s side lost a Europa League final against Sevilla, a Carabao Cup final against City, a Champions League final against Madrid in Kyiv and, unforgettable, they missed the league title against City in 2019 despite losing just one game and amassing 97 points.
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Liverpool had to learn to bounce back from setbacks, and their collective strength and belief grew from those near misses. But while City have had many bad nights in the Champions League, they haven’t suffered the same setbacks as Liverpool. Domestically, it all seemed too easy for City at times, with eight major trophies in England since Guardiola took charge in 2016. They also achieved a domestic treble in that time.
Disappointments have been rare, largely confined to the Champions League, but they haven’t really impacted City’s domestic ambitions. However, this week’s elimination is on a scale unlike anything they’ve experienced before.
Suddenly, a series of routine Premier League encounters to clinch the title now feels like the final stages of climbing a mountain. Newcastle (one of the league’s in-form sides) at home, with heavy minds and legs after Madrid, will be a test of nerve as well as physical stamina, while next Wednesday’s trip to eighth-placed Wolves will is another game that will raise big questions from Guardiola and his players.
In both games, City are playing a day after Liverpool, so they could find themselves in second place and need to win to reclaim top spot, which only adds more pressure.
This is followed by a game at West Ham for Europe on May 15, followed by the season finale at home against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. Just imagine the tension at the Etihad that day if Gerrard gets the chance to help his former club Liverpool by denying City a victory they might need to clinch the title.
City are still the favorites to win the Premier League as they are a point clear and there are just four games left in which Liverpool could catch them. But this City side know they’ve missed one competition and are halfway to missing another, so fear of failure could creep into the club’s psyche. It’s time for Guardiola and his players to step out of the canvas and find a spirit to fight back.