Liverpool have edged ahead of Manchester City in what is turning into an enthralling Premier League title fight ahead of their clash at the Etihad Stadium on January 3.
Jurgen Klopp said that Liverpool ‘are still Rocky Balboa, not Ivan Drago’ in the summer, but they have traded punches well enough so far.
Although Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal still hope to have their say, the two favourites are well ahead on points as we approach the halfway point of the season.
Will Pep Guardiola retain the title he won so emphatically in April, or can Klopp deliver Liverpool’s first championship in 29 years? Sportsmail takes a look at how the two rivals are shaping up.
Style of play
It took Guardiola a year to impose his blueprint on City, but it has brought spectacular reward.
The champions are a well-oiled unit, espousing the principles that brought their coach success at Barcelona and Bayern; playing possession football, defending high up the pitch, and a high-pressing game designed to win the ball back within five seconds of losing it.
Unlike Barca, City use wingers to devastating effect and have the creativity across the pitch to cut their opponents to ribbons.
Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ is similar in many ways to Guardiola’s high-press and has proved equally effective in regaining possession and turning defence into attack.
He arrived in the Premier League promising ‘heavy-metal football’ and has not disappointed, with Liverpool developing into an irresistible attacking force.
The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is among the most feared forward lines in Europe.
Record in big games
The 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday reminded us all that City are still fallible. It was Guardiola’s third defeat against Chelsea in five Premier League games as City boss, winning the other two.
However, in 15 league games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, he has lost just twice and won 10 times.
His record against Liverpool doesn’t read so well. Two defeats, one win and two draws, including a surprisingly goalless affair in October when Mahrez missed a late penalty. And there is also the small matter of a 5-1 aggregate defeat by Klopp’s side in last season’s Champions League quarter final.
In 25 league games against Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, Klopp has tasted defeat only four times. However, 14 of those games have ended in a draw, with Liverpool winning on seven occasions.
His record against City is very encouraging ahead of their meeting on January 3.
One black mark on Klopp’s career is his failure to win his last six cup finals – including two Champions League finals – and that inability to get his team over the line will come under scrutiny in the coming months.