Either Liverpool or Manchester City will win the 2019-20 Premier League title. That’s a near certainty after roughly one-third of the campaign.
The teams currently are unquestionably English soccer’s two best as Manchester City vies to become the first side since 2001 to win three consecutive Premier League titles and Liverpool, the reigning UEFA Champions League winner, is the chief threat to City’s domestic throne.
The teams’ first Premier League meeting of the season took place Sunday at Anfield, with Liverpool convincingly winning 3-1. The result extended Liverpool’s lead atop the Premier League standings to eight points and left Manchester City mired in fourth place, nine points behind the relentless Reds.
Although the Premier League won’t award its trophy until the winner mathematically clinches the title, signs point to Liverpool ending its 30-year wait for a domestic title in spring 2020. Here are five reasons why.
Teams need outstanding players to win Premier League and/or Champions League titles. Liverpool’s roster contains seven nominees for the 2019 Ballon d’Or, one of soccer’s most prestigious individual awards. Furthermore, at least five Reds have legitimate cases for recognition as the best in the world at their respective positions.
Teams also require depth to win Premier League and/or Champions League titles. Liverpool came agonizingly close to winning both last season, proving the quality of their squad players. Competition for playing time is even fiercer this season, with the likes of veterans Dejan Lovren, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri starting just five Premier League games combined.
Injuries undoubtedly will occur over the marathon campaign. Liverpool already has weathered goalkeeper Alisson’s two-month absence due to a calf injury. Meanwhile, other key players are in the primes of their careers and have proven their durability over the golden period in club history that the last 22 months have been.
Liverpool might add a fullback or center forward during the January transfer window, but chances are they won’t need to bolster the squad at all in order to win a major trophy.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been on the job for four-plus years, and his players know what he wants them to do. Having instilled his renowned hard-pressing and quick counter-attacking style over his first two seasons, Klopp’s Liverpool began playing with greater patience in possession, as opponents defended deeper in an effort to contain the Reds’ attacking threat.
Key goals no longer come only from Liverpool’s awesome front-three attackers, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joël Matip and Andrew Robertson and midfielders Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and forward Dicko Origi each have scored one league goal this season, and midfielder Fabinho has two.
Liverpool is unbeaten at “fortress” Anfield in 46 Premier League games, dating back to April 2017. That’s the second-longest home unbeaten run in Premier League history. Furthermore, Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 29 Premier League games overall, with its last league defeat coming in January 2019 against Manchester City.
Just three visits to “big six” opponents remain on Liverpool’s schedule, and given the way Tottenham and Arsenal have played this season, most Reds only will have genuine fears about the April 6 visit to Manchester City.
The Reds have an eight-point lead atop the division, and it will be hard for anyone to overtake them if they don’t lose.
Manchester City stumbles
Manchester City beat Liverpool for the 2018-19 Premier League title by only one point, but the first 12 games of this season represent a power shift. Sunday’s matchup showed luck, momentum and refereeing decisions now are on the Reds’ side, and the Premier League standings don’t lie at this stage of the season.
25 – Man City have won 25 points from 12 Premier League games this season – the lowest ever total by a Pep Guardiola side at this stage of a top-flight campaign. Slip. #LIVMCI pic.twitter.com/d5QpYKkz6y
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 10, 2019
Manchester City’s injury crisis is a leading factor for its relative struggles, as is the passing of time. City amassed a record 100 points in 2017-18, and its 98 points last season was the second-highest total in Premier League history. The evolving squad still relies on Fernandinho, 34, David Silva, 33, and Sergio Aguero, 31, and any sports fan knows players on the wrong side of 30 struggle to dominate as consistently as they did in previous years.
Naysayers will point to the fact Liverpool led the Premier League by 10 points at Christmas last season but still fell short of the title. Don’t expect that to happen again, as this team already has learned the hard lessons only defeat can teach and is putting them to good use in 2019-20.