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Why Man City’s “psychological block” is their biggest issue against Liverpool

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A mouthwatering match lies ahead of us this weekend, but do Man City fans believe a second successive win at Liverpool is on the cards?

The Reds have a one-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s champions heading into Sunday’s game, highlighting the importance of the occasion.

City’s 1-0 win at Chelsea last weekend was a major statement of intent, and another three points at Anfield would see them considered favourites for the Premier League title.

On the flip side, a Liverpool victory would feel significant, not to mention it being a huge response after the disappointing draw away to Brentford.

Ahead of the much-anticipated occasion, we spoke to City writer and supporter Simon Curtis (@bifana_bifana) to hear about his side, the title race and Sunday’s outcome.

 

How would you assess Man City’s start to the season?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 15, 2021: xxxx during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Manchester City FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m happy.

I’m pleased that Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea have all been anointed Premier League champions in the first month of the season, while the press are busy munching on Man City for having ‘no discernible strikers’.

What has actually happened is two 5-0 wins, two six-goal victories and a complete strangulation of Chelsea on their own patch.

PSG in midweek will have the ‘but we’ve no strikers brigade’ out again, though.

 

Are you still very much the team to beat?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Manchester City's Phil Foden celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think those that know their onions at Anfield will see City and Chelsea as their main rivals this season.

United – though their splash-the-cash strategy will help them win more than they lose – cannot win the league under their present manager, as he lacks the wherewithal to go head-to-head with the game’s top coaches.

 

How’s the relationship between Pep and the fans after his recent comments?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 15, 2021: Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Manchester City FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think it’s fine. As usual, the press made a bigger thing of it than needed to be made and it soon died down again.

Pep Guardiola is welcome to his opinion on a whole range of subjects, from Catalan independence to depth of support in a pandemic-ravaged economy.

He has aired his thoughts on the side’s backing before and it didn’t go down especially well then either, but, in the greater scheme of things, it’s a small item that is of little import.

You can’t expect a millionaire football manager to be completely in tune with the financial hurdles the average fan has to jump each week to make it to the game.

 

Who do you view as City’s three most important players this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 6, 2019: Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Manchester City FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

City need Aymeric Laporte to continue to make it difficult for John Stones to get back in alongside Ruben Dias.

Meanwhile, Jack Grealish needs to bring his unique skills to the front line and Rodri has to step forward and make himself undroppable from that defensive pivot position.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, how do you assess their title chances?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 18, 2021: Liverpool's Naby Keita (C) celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool dropped off badly last year for reasons often aired.

This season already looks more promising, but the dithery form of Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino still seems to be hampering them a bit in the early weeks.

The way Brentford managed to nick three goals must be slightly worrying, too.

I see Liverpool as the third prong of a three-way race this year, but with possibly not quite enough to get into the top two.

 

Looking ahead to Sunday, who do you fear most?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 18, 2021: Liverpool supporters' banner "Mentality Monsters" on the Spion Kop before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Anfield without a crowd proved to be a playground for City last season, but I expect a completely different situation with the place brimful.

History tells us that the stadium itself has been City’s biggest psychological block for decades.

As soon as they enter that place, whether they are world-renowned stars or Richard Dunne and Ian Brightwell, all semblance of calm and focus evaporates.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates a second goal, but it was disallowed following a VAR review, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dias and Laporte must do to Mane and Mohamed Salah what they did to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, smothering all danger.

Grealish and Bernardo Silva must produce enough energy to keep Robertson and whoever’s at right-back pinned back and give them something to deal with rather than the other way round.

If City can replicate the game plan at Chelsea, they will have a chance.

That being said, Chelsea away and PSG away is not the ideal way to warm up for the most physically and psychologically taxing away league game of the season.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal from a penalty kick during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool 2-2 City, if we have the legs. Otherwise, the Reds might just shave it.

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