VAR ‘could drive Pep away from Premier League’
CITY played well at Liverpool in many ways - but lost the game.
And that, in itself, is a concern for Pep Guardiola as his team gazes across the gulf of a nine-point gap.
The Blues are more than capable of putting together a run which would close that, especially as Jurgen Klopp’s team surely cannot maintain the same form levels and luck with injuries.
But the defeat at Anfield threw a sharp focus on three big issues which have troubled City all season.
If they are to overhaul their rivals in the league, or at least take their Champions League crown off them, these are three pressing problems for Guardiola...
CITY’S biggest advantage over Liverpool for the last two seasons has been a superior midfield. That was not evident at Anfield, where Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson out-shone Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
It did not help that De Bruyne was played in such an advanced position, negating his ability to spring attacks from deep with strong running and accurate passing. But David Silva’s powers appear to be on the wane, and Phil Foden is still not at the same level as the Spaniard.
It is more about a return to a settled formation and the rediscovery of form - but they need both fast.
DEFENDERS WHO DEFEND GUARDIOLA’S philosophy on his defenders is bold but proven - he places their attacking prowess above their defensive capabilities.
The fact that has brought a bagful of trophies to City shows he gets it right - his back four, and goalkeeper, usually ensure they are on the front foot. But when teams get at them, defensive frailties are there for all to see - Liverpool have exposed them repeatedly.
That has been the biggest stumbling block in Europe as well, where shrewd, counter-attacking teams have persistently thwarted the Blues, albeit on the away goals rule.
City’s only natural defenders are Nicolas Otamendi, who has been in poor form, and Aymeric Laporte who is also an excellent offensive centre-back - who is injured.
The Blues are not planning to spend in January, but they have two young players in Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis who perform both functions well - their maturity cannot come quickly enough for the Blues.
LIVERPOOL had seven attempts on goal, five of them were on target and three hit the net. City had 15 attempts, only three on target, and just one was successful.
Considering they have two of the most prolific strikers in Premier League history in Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, and another rising goalscoring talent in Raheem Sterling, that is not good enough.
City create more chances than anyone, and when they hit the groove, they blow teams away.
The problem comes in tight games, when they rarely manage to do what Liverpool do, and take a limited number of chances clinically.
That is key to winning the Champions League and to taking three points against the top Premier League sides.
City manager Pep Guardiola