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With nine games to play and 27 points to play for in this English Premier League season, Manchester City leads the pack by one point ahead of Liverpool, but with City's title-winning pedigree, they remain the Premier League favourite.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has earned the admiration of most within English football for the manner in which his team plays and he has been superbly backed by his club in the transfer market, allowing him to build a formidable team. But they have also dropped points when least expected - for example, Monday morning's Merseyside Derby.

Nonethless, the signings of Sadio Mané, Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Ederson in recent seasons have undoubtedly taken Liverpool to a whole new level.

The club went close to breaking its storied Premier League drought under Brendan Rogers in 2014, and while that team was powered by the ridiculous scoring feats of Luis Suarez, Klopp's Liverpool has a formidable overall build.

In 2014, Rogers' side sat in second place after 28 games and had conceded 35 goals. By the end of the season, Liverpool would have conceded 50 goals.

Klopp's team has only conceded 15 goals all season, some five goals less than Manchester City.

That defensive strength has come at the expense of a slightly dulled attack. Salah has 'only' scored 20 goals thus far this season, having finished last season with 44 in all competitions, which has contributed to the club's overall goal tally in the Premier League suffering.

Liverpool has scored 64 Premier League goals this season. At the same time last season Liverpool had scored 73 goals.

There is no doubting that a full pre-season under Klopp for Van Dijk – who has proven himself one of the best defenders in the world this season – and the signing of Ederson have gone a long way to improving Klopp's team defensively and Klopp deserves credit for acting swiftly to correct the deficiencies he saw in his team.

However, despite all of this, it remains incredibly hard to write off Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side.

City has hardly played the champagne football it put on last season as it stormed to a decisive Premier League triumph, picking up over 100 points in the process.

However, City's team is full of battle-hardened winners, with a manager who knows how to guide teams to success.

Photo: via Vincent Kompany

Guardiola has enjoyed success everywhere he has managed.

His critics will say that he has always been backed in the transfer market and he's had the benefit of working with the world's best players.

His harshest critics will argue that his failure to win a Champions League during his time at Bayern Munich means he failed at the German giants and his struggles with City in the same competition means he has plenty to prove in England, too.

Despite this, league success remains the true measure of a manager's success and in that regard, Guardiola has few competitors.

Of his nine full seasons as a senior manager, he has failed to win the league title in just two of those seasons.

City may not be playing its best football under Guardiola at this present moment, but his team continues to win matches – and trophies.

The recent League Cup triumph, the come-from-behind victory with 10-men against Schalke in Germany and the scrappy wins against West Ham United are all demonstrative of a side that knows how to win.

If City can kick on into the sort of form which saw it defeat Chelsea 6-0 in the middle of February, then there is every chance Guardiola and his team will reclaim their Premier League crown.

Both teams have what most would consider a relatively good run to the finish line in terms of fixtures.

City still has to play cross-town rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford and Tottenham in Manchester, while Liverpool must take on Tottenham and Chelsea at Anfield.

Klopp knows how to win, but will need to ensure his players hold their nerve in the remaining weeks. He commandeered a brilliant Dortmund team to ultimate success by breaking Bayern Munich's grip on the Bundesliga title by winning the 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns.

The question remains, can his players deliver when it really counts?

A 5-0 drubbing of Watford was a good start to the end of the campaign, but maintaining that over the remaining 900 minutes of league football, with a daunting second leg – and potentially tougher test to come – against Bayern Munich to come is another story.

For all the good football Klopp has delivered to Liverpool's adoring fans, he is yet to deliver a trophy, despite playing in three cup finals.

Until he does and until his players prove that they have the mettle to see out a good start with a strong finish, there will remain a question mark over Liverpool's ability to finish what they start.

City may be relying on a slip-up, but one has to believe that for a manager and, more importantly, a team which has come from much larger deficits to snatch the title they will be ready and willing to pounce on any slip-ups a nervy Liverpool may dish up.


Categories: Analysis | Premier League

epl, premier league, liverpool, manchester city

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