There’s no question about it – Liverpool’s newfound rivalry with Manchester City is at boiling point.
It is something that has been stirring for a while, from Jürgen Klopp’s first outing to the Etihad in 2015 where a rejuvenated Reds side thrashed the Sky Blues 4-1, all the way to Sunday’s massive win which extended the league leaders gap to eight points – nine ahead of City.
The subsequent fallout after Liverpool’s 3-1 win demonstrates the bad blood that now sets apart the two sides. Referee Michael Oliver’s disinterest after the ball struck Trent Alexander-Arnold’s arm in the opening five minutes set the tone of frustration and vehement anger for the whole of the blue side of Manchester.
Liverpool were most deserving of the win on the night, and the actions of Pep Guardiola during the match signified how much this fixture means to him and his team. The Spaniard’s animated reaction after the ball struck Alexander-Arnold’s hand for the second time has now made him a laughing stock on social media, at least for the time being.
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The actions of City’s boss after the match towards the officials – an over-the-top handshake followed by what appeared to be sarcastic tokens of gratitude – made him look sore in defeat. The post-match interviews depicted the 48-year-old in sombre mood, tight-lipped on any question asked about the result and match officials, giving short and concise answers to avoid further controversy. Liverpool demoralised him.
Guardiola’s tense relationship with Liverpool is likely deep-rooted. Back in 2001, a young Steven Gerrard laughed in the face of the then Barcelona midfielder after he refused to shake his hand, after Gary McAllister’s famous penalty put the Reds into the final of the UEFA Cup in their historic treble-winning campaign.
Sunday’s game is not the first time the former Bayern Munich manager has had issues with officials against Liverpool – he was sent to the stands back in 2018 as his side crashed out of the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the Etihad.
But it was not just Guardiola who found himself as the main talking point from the weekend. As we all know, Raheem Sterling’s St George’s Park bust-up with Joe Gomez is the result of a heated confrontation on the pitch at Anfield.
In all honesty, Sterling fared a lot better than he has done on previous returns to Liverpool – he still didn’t register a single key pass or shot on target – but he showed signs of aggravation constantly throughout, first at Alexander-Arnold early on, an outburst at Jordan Henderson in the second half also, before Gomez grappled with the England international late on.
Whenever Sterling found the ball at his feet, he was met with a chorus of boos once again, something that he knows won’t change in years to come after the manner in which he departed the club.
The situation between Gomez and Sterling is almost certainly a lot less serious than how media outlets describe, but it exhibits the profound rivalry between the two clubs – enough to make tensions continue into the international break.
These are just recent examples of the factors that make this such a serious feud. After the centurion season which saw them finish 19 points above their nearest challengers, City would have thought that they were about to embark on a monopolisation on the Premier League, with near unlimited funds to continue to supplement their already dazzling squad.
Liverpool disregarded that and went on to push them until the very last game of last season whilst also securing European glory for a sixth time, a trophy that City so desperately lust.
Amongst this the Citizens still hold a sorry record at Anfield, with it now 16 years without a win at the ground, the last coming in May 2003, which is their only win away to Liverpool in 27 years.
The Reds’ 30-year wait for a league title is something that can comfort City however, and whilst this year proves to be their best shot at a first Premier League title, Guardiola and co will be on hand to make it as tough as possible – there are still 26 games left to play.
There’s also everything else off the field that has contributed untold amounts to the resentment between the pair. Liverpool’s coach ‘welcome’ for the 2018 Champions League quarter final first leg gave City a taste of European action under the lights at Anfield prior to kick-off, damaging the coach which was made worse by being outplayed on the night thanks to goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mané and Mo Salah.
The alleged scout hacking scandal back in 2013, in which Liverpool supposedly paid £1million compensation for their part in accessing City’s scouting database, has also thrown fuel into the fire. City’s Premier League triumph after a title race against the Reds went down to the wire would seem like a perfect time to bask in one another’s glory, only for their players to sing tasteless songs about Liverpool on the way back to Manchester.
In between those incidents, throw in the previously mentioned Champions League knockout tie in which Liverpool humbled the English champions at Anfield, in which the Reds tore them apart.
City have their own results to brag about in recent history too – a 5-0 demolition early on in that same season, alongside their 2-1 victory at the beginning of 2019, which showcased a remarkable tactical display from both sides, only for Leroy Sané to provide the winner.
For the red half of Merseyside, this is their club — rich with history and silverware, fighting against the newcomers whose success was born out of riches from wealthy investors. The Premier League plays host to the two best teams in world football currently, so why shouldn’t the rivalry continue to grow?