The chess board between Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, and Manchester City counterpart, Pep Guardiola, has begun to take shape.
Liverpool’s win over at Brighton on Saturday at the Amex Stadium restored the 7-point lead at the top of the Premiership, piling all the pressure on the defending champions.
It is now Pep’s move as Manchester City take on Wolves tonight.
However, anything less than a win for Pep Guardiola’s side will mean, advantage Liverpool.
The FA Cup exit to Wolves, ironically enough, has set an exciting chess board between the two rival managers.
Liverpool now have only two competitions to focus on, meanwhile, City still have four trophies still to play for.
City have double the amount of work on their plate compared to Jurgen Klopp’s men.
?| Nuno Espirito Santo on Pep Guardiola.— City Central (@City_CentraI) January 12, 2019
“When someone brings something new to the game – because everybody knows the game – I think we as managers must develop our ideas to help and develop the game.
“Pep is in that small circle of persons.” pic.twitter.com/7Gx1IOsiba
Fewer matches for Liverpool
They now only have 18 matches, including both Champions League ties against Bayern Munich, to contest between now and the end of the season.
In stark contrast, City could have an extra 9-12 matches potentially, depending on how far they go in the other competitions.
Whilst such permeabilities don’t even cover the distinct possibility of extra time or penalties. All of which would be physically taxing and mentally exhausting at such a vital stage of the season.
This fixture congestion could eventually weaken City physically, although they certainly have the squad depth to deal with such challenges.
City have extra Carabao Cup and FA Cup clashes
Having won the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final leg against Burton Albion 9-0, City are heavy favourites to defend the trophy they won almost a year ago.
Guardiola is acutely aware that he failed to win the Champions League at Bayern, having arrived at the Allianz Arena, as defending European champions.
He will know that his Manchester City side have to do well this season in the Champions League. Perhaps even make the showpiece final at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, home of Atletico Madrid.
After all it is Guardiola’s third season at City and questions will be asked if he fails to at least make the semi-finals.
City face bigger pressure to deliver the Champions League
Ironically, it was Liverpool who eliminated Manchester City last season at the quarter-final stage. Triumphing 3-0 at Anfield and 2-1 at the Etihad, on their way to the final.
We can be sure that Guardiola will take Europe’s elite competition extremely seriously.
Other than the mandatory Premier League matches, that only leaves the FA Cup.
City may prefer an earlier exit from the FA Cup, to ease the fixture congestion. Similar to Liverpool’s situation, that manager Jurgen Klopp says was not intentional, as a way to benefit them in the title chase.
Guardiola’s side face Burnley at home next in the FA Cup. So, you can expect City to go far in this competition also.
Ultimate chess verdict:
Liverpool have one match per week, if that. This is extremely manageable in comparison to Man. City’s fixture list.
If Klopp studies his Premier League opponents thoroughly and meticulously and if their attacking trident of Mane, Salah and Firmino are firing, then Liverpool will be a match for anyone.
It is Liverpool’s intense desire to stay on top of the Premiership, that continues to drive them on. Coupled with encouragement and support from the Anfield faithful, they will be some force.
Liverpool have had their fair share of injuries of late to Gomez, Lovren, Matip, but if the injury crisis eases and Klopp gets Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain up to full fitness, he could alas have a full-strength side to choose from come March.
This gives Liverpool an added advantage.
With 16 matches to go, lets hope it will be Klopp declaring “checkmate” on Guardiola as the title race approaches its climax.