Will Liverpool be able to stand up to Manchester City again this campaign?

Will Liverpool be able to stand up to Manchester City again this campaign?

Looking back at last season, Liverpool fans will be frustrated with how their Premier League campaign ended. Aston Villa, spearheaded by former Anfield legend Steven Gerrard, had inspired his side to a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium against favourites Manchester City, whilst Jürgen Klopp’s men were in the ascendancy against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Unfortunately for those in Merseyside, City would defy the odds as Villa capitulated to İlkay Gündoğan’s late strike – handing Pep Guardiola a fourth title in five years.

It was a season defined by small margins and missed opportunities, culminating with the drama and intrigue that have made the Premier League such a unique entity in recent years. But having come up short against City in the 2018-19 season, you felt things would be different this time around, and for 75 minutes it looked as though an unprecedented quadruple was still objectively on the cards.

That blow three years ago was softened by the fact that the Reds went on to beat Tottenham Hotspur to win the Champions League, but this time around they weren’t as fortunate, losing 1-0 to Real Madrid in Paris and settling for a domestic double of League Cup and FA Cup.

Liverpool have had to dust themselves down and go again ahead of the new season, and while they made massive progress on an underwhelming third place in an injury-riddled 2020-21 campaign, you wonder if they can replicate that goalscoring form with some key departures this summer. Indeed, cult-hero Divock Origi and top scorer in both cup competitions Takumi Minamino saw their time at Anfield come to an end, while Sadio Mané, who really established himself as a club legend throughout his six-year stay, joined Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

With so many changes, fresh faces were required to keep the club competitive. Fábio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsey will serve as fringe players capable of deputising for the first team, while Darwin Núñez serves as a marquee signing from Benfica, arriving for a club record £72 million. It’s evident Klopp is transitioning from his tried and trusted squad that were so successful over the last few years into his next phase of management, handled in a way similar to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United – slowly integrating players and combining the right blend of potential and proficiency.

Only time will tell if Klopp’s gamble comes off. It’s produced some lacklustre preseason results but the Community Shield victory at the King Power Stadium was certainly encouraging, as Klopp’s side overcame City 3-1 to win the campaign’s curtain-raiser despite many that bet on football favouring Guardiola’s outfit.

“It was good, it was really good. It is clear it will get better with time,” Klopp said. “We live in a world where everybody gets judged on first sight and that’s not helpful for anybody, but it happens constantly.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring, looking to rectify the mistake he made in the Champions League final, while Mohamed Salah and Núñez secured the win for the Reds, with the Uruguayan earning praise from his boss for his first competitive goal.

“I think Darwin would have been fine even without scoring the third one because the penalty was Millie’s (James Milner) cross and his header.

“The chance he had before he did really well, but Ederson reacted brilliantly. The goal was obviously the icing on the cake, so really pleased for him.

“You could see in his face, you could see in the face of all his team-mates how happy the boys are for him and that’s a really good sign after that short period of time that he is with us.”

City will obviously still come in as favourites given their track record and despite a limp debut from Erling Haaland in Leicester, he will find goals easy to come by simply as a by-product of City’s mesmerising attacking football. The opening weeks will go far in indicating which side will be in the driver’s seat before the Premier League pauses for a winter break enforced by the World Cup.

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