Man City v Liverpool: 'Jurgen Klopp's side go from hunter to hunted in title race'

By Martin KeownFormer Arsenal defender and MOTD2 pundit
Match of the Day 2 analysis

Liverpool have gone from being the hunter to the hunted and when you get in front you have to enjoy it, not be looking over your shoulder.

There are only two players in the current Liverpool team that have won the Premier League - Daniel Sturridge with Chelsea in 2009-10 and James Milner twice with Manchester City - and experience helps in situations like these, but in Jurgen Klopp they have a manager who is a winner and that is where he will take charge.

Players like defender Virgil van Dijk are at that point in their careers where they are taking ownership for what is ahead for them. They are desperate to win major trophies.

'City bounced back but it is out of their hands'

After surprise back-to-back defeats against Crystal Palace and Leicester, it was a timely return to form for Manchester City in Sunday's 3-1 victory at Southampton.

Having the important Fernandinho back in the side after the Brazilian missed those losses is key to them. It felt like City had fallen off a cliff with their form but when you want to reach perfection, that can suddenly happen.

The players have not had to go into the dressing room and run through a defeat for many months and then you have three in four games. It will have hurt them but they have bounced back.

Manager Pep Guardiola spoke about his players being "heroes" before the game, so he has not fallen out with them and understands they can look back on the year and be pleased and proud of what they have achieved.

Man City chasing best team in Europe - Guardiola

City needed to beat Southampton and they did that. On 37 minutes when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg equalised to make it 1-1 the title race was on a knife edge. If City had lost their third game in a row, it would have needed the same to happen to Liverpool for City to get back into it.

There was a little bit more luck for City against Southampton - you have to be a lucky team to be a winning team. They have been hit by thunderbolt goals scored by Andros Townsend for Palace and Ricardo Pereira for Leicester and have not taken their own chances.

But if they can beat Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on Thursday and let them feel the power and the quality they have, and make them feel second best, that might affect the Merseysiders psychologically in a very big way.

At seven points behind, they are not out of the Premier League title race but they have to win that game.

'Liverpool have not achieved anything yet'

Liverpool have started the season superbly, winning 17 and drawing three of their opening 20 league games and conceding just eight goals in that run.

The danger for the Reds is that all these pats on the back and the accolades that come with going top of the table can go to your head a little bit. You become unknowingly complacent.

After thrashing Arsenal 5-1, they have to focus their minds on the City clash. They have not got time to get too carried away. Liverpool have not achieved anything yet.

It is about going game to game. I know that sounds boring but that is all you can do, win your battles, the individual duels. The competition from within at Liverpool for starting places is really high. That in itself will concentrate their minds.

Looking at how emphatic Liverpool were against Arsenal on Saturday, it is hard to back against them with the togetherness and belief that was shown by everyone. But we were saying that about City two or three months ago and look what happened then.

I have been in a group at Arsenal when people were saying, 'you are going to win it', but within the group there is not the same certainty and there is a feeling of insecurity.

We have seen that manifest itself with City. As brilliant as their world looked from the outside, it was not quite what we thought, was it? It can be the same for Liverpool and it will be an intriguing second half to the season.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson
The two missing pieces in Liverpool's title jigsaw? Defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson both joined in 2018 for a combined £142m and both have played a crucial role in the side's rise to the top of the table

Don't talk about going unbeaten, talk about the title

If Liverpool win or draw against City, it starts to open up for going the full season unbeaten.

Liverpool have not won a title for 29 years, so their priority is not to go the whole term without a loss - they will want to do it though because a defeat may derail their season. They still have Chelsea and Tottenham at home and they are away to Manchester United in February.

In the Arsenal side I played in during the 2003-04 season, we only started talking about going unbeaten once the league was won.

In 2002-03, we started talking about going unbeaten and then did not do it. It seemed to attract a fever from opposition teams to stop us doing it.

It is fine if Dejan Lovren wants to talk about going through the season unbeaten but that is the danger - it is better to talk about winning the Premier League than about going unbeaten for 38 games.

I get the impression that there is a team message at Liverpool and everything is controlled. Full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold spoke to Match of the Day after the win over Arsenal and I might as well have been listening to the manager Klopp.

There is a shared view and that is how professional it is these days. It is almost like propaganda. There is a message to the media and I know Lovren sometimes likes to do his own stuff but I don't think he will make that mistake again. It is best to do your talking on the pitch.

Problems at left-back for City against Liverpool?

Oleksandr Zinchenko, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany celebrate Manchester City's third goal against Southampton
Though Oleksandr Zinchenko made a mistake for Southampton's goal, the Ukrainian had more touches on the ball (131) and made more passes in the opposition half (63) than any other player on the pitch. Defensively, he contributed five clearances and won the ball back five times for his team

For the neutral on Thursday, we need the hosts to win and then it sets us up nicely for the rest of the season.

The game will be fantastic for everyone to watch - City have home advantage, and there are two great managers and two great teams going against each other.

We won't see a boring, tactical affair but I am worried a little bit for City at left-back. There was a pivotal moment against Southampton when Oleksandr Zinchenko lost the ball, allowing the hosts to equalise. He could also have given a penalty away but then produced a brilliant cross for Sergio Aguero's goal.

In typical fashion, Guardiola wants his players to go and play. They have so many options - Aymeric Laporte could go to left back, as could Danilo or even Kyle Walker. We will see what Guardiola does because he knows the squad better than anyone else.

Is Aguero back to the levels of earlier in the season? Can City deal with Liverpool's front three, because there is an awful lot of pace there? I think Liverpool start as favourites.

Martin Keown was speaking to BBC Sport's Shamoon Hafez

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