Manchester City head into Saturday’s clash against Everton with their lead at the top of the English Premier League standings having been slashed to just three points.
Just a few short weeks ago, City were flying high as they established a 12 match winning streak in the league, with a 1-0 victory over former log-leaders Chelsea on 15 January taking Pep Guardiola’s team 11 points clear of second-placed Liverpool.
Yet, slowly but surely, the Reds have sliced into that once seemingly unassailable lead, with Jurgen Klopp’s in-form side having claimed an 18th win of the season on Wednesday night after thrashing Leeds 6-0.
Liverpool and City have now played the same number of games, but the Reds won’t be in league action again until 5 March when they tackle West Ham, while City now face this Saturday’s all-important away game against Leeds before a challenging fixture awaits against resurgent Manchester United on 6 March.
At the moment, the Reds certainly seem to be enjoying the chase, with Klopp insisting he takes Guardiola’s tongue-in-cheek remark about Liverpool being a “pain in the a**e” as a compliment as the rivals prepare for another Premier League title run-in.
“What Pep said, we are the pain in the lower back, or can be, that’s a good description and that’s how it should be,” Klopp said. “We try to be as annoying as possible until we have a chance to overtake…
“With all respect, what City’s doing is incredible. We are pushing each other as well. There is no chance to get a bit soft because the other one will be there to catch you.”
City’s bid for a fourth league title in five seasons under Guardiola was dealt a setback after a 3-2 defeat against Tottenham last weekend, but this Saturday’s battle against 16th-placed Everton offers the perfect opportunity to bounce back in style.
Guardiola is expected to have right-back Kyle Walker available for selection despite the defender not being spotted in Manchester City training footage on Tuesday.
Ahead of the fixture, several members of the first-team squad have remained doubts through fitness problems, though, namely the likes of Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus, and Cole Palmer.
Nevertheless, Everton will be rank underdogs, with manager Frank Lampard calling on his players to make a shift in mentality against City
“We’re playing the best team in the league – possibly the best team in the world – but we have to use that as a carrot for us to bring them to Goodison and give them a real proper game.”