It was Deja Vu for Liverpool and Manchester City playing each other again after just 3 days and the final of the Capital Cup. Klopp opted for Jon Flanagan as right back and switched Nathaniel Clyne to left back and it set up an interesting duel between Flanagan and Raheem Sterling. Flanagan set his marker early with a robust challenge on Sterling.
Pellegrini was without Yaya Toure through injury and he brought Joe Hart back into the side. The game started quite slowly with the 120minutes of Sunday seemingly taking it out of the players. The deadlock was broken by a daisy cutter by Adam Lallana, fed by Milner he sent a shot from 25yards which squeezed in Joe Harts far post. The shot was neither particularly ferocious or had any particular venom and Joe Harts positioning has to be questioned.
Liverpool were pressing City very well all over the park, and City were particularly disjointed in midfield. Aguero was feeding on scraps and getting increasingly frustrated. With a centre back pairing of Kolo Toure and Dejan Lovren in his first game back, one would have expected Aguero to cause far more problems.
Liverpool doubled their lead when some excellent interplay between Lallana, Firmino and Milner resulted in Milner toe poking in the second on 41minutes. Lallana was having his best game for a while and Milner seemed to be motivated in playing his old team. The Anfield crowd were roused by the energy of Liverpool and their pressing, preventing any City fluency.
Pellegrini chose to substitute Raheem Sterling much to the crowds delight as he had been very subdued with Flanagan having the upper hand. Wilfried Bony was introduced to revert to a 4-4-2, however it seemed to make little difference. Silva who is believed to be carrying an ankle injury was unable to impose himself and without Silva City lack creativity. Jesus Navas was fairly ineffectual beside Silva and City created very little.
The match was put to bed in the 57th minute when a squirming run by Lallana up to the 18 yard box fed Firmino for Firmino to strike home. Otamendi was at fault for conceding possession and City were punished. Firmino now has an impressive 7 goals and 8 assists in his first season, and is showing great promise.
The match left City ten points adrift of Leicester and all but put a nail in the coffin of their title bid. Pellegrini’s reign is fizzling out in a whimper and the Pep Guardiola news has no doubt affected his team. City are level on points with Man United and will now have to fight for a Champions League berth. Klopp will be enthused that he is 6 points off 4th and might yet make a late challenge for fourth.
Guardiola watching these City performances from a distance will be registering the size of the task ahead of him at the Etihad. Both squads will have major surgery in the summer and it’s going to make for a very intriguing season ahead.