For the first half of the season Manchester City appeared to be unstoppable in their Premier League title defence and were odds-on to storm the division once again. While Liverpool were also undefeated, Pep Guardiola’s charges had a superior goal difference and had drawn one game fewer before December. However, over the hectic festive period City have undergone some shock defeats, allowing Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur to usurp them in the table. This has thrown a title race which some thought to be cut-and-dried wide open.
After dominating the league for most of the first half of the season, City had a December to forget. It began with a 2-0 walloping at the hands of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and was followed by another two shock defeats to Crystal Palace at the Etihad and then Leicester City at the King Power Stadium either side of Christmas. These losses put the ball well and truly in Liverpool’s court, gifting them a seven point lead at the summit at the exact halfway point of the campaign.
According to City winger Bernardo Silva, the champions suffered a loss in confidence after the harrowing defeats to Chelsea and Palace and this was the reason behind their third defeat against the Foxes. The Portuguese trickster noted that it was the toughest time for the club since he had arrived in Manchester in the summer of 2017. Guardiola attributed the extreme loss of form to the fact that there were a number of returning players who upset the side’s rhythm. In recent matches Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Danilo have been slowly reintroduced to a team that was managing just fine without them.
This could, of course, be a minor stumbling block for City. On their day, there are few who would deny that Guardiola’s charges are the most dangerous side in the division. And when De Bruyne gets back to full strength they could be unstoppable once again. This is why now could be the perfect time to bet on the reigning champions to retain the title in stunning fashion. The gap between them and leaders Liverpool is in no way insurmountable, yet bookies are offering odds of around 7/4 for City to win at the halfway point of the campaign. With the deals and bonuses available, such as the weekly £5 free bet from Sky Bet listed by Oddschecker, it seems this is a shrewd opportunity for bettors to cash in on a free bet.
Another thing that could lead punters to back City is the fact that Liverpool have been in strong positions to win the league before and have thrown it away at the last. In fact, the Reds have topped the table at Christmas on three separate occasions in the 1996-97, 2008-09 and 2013-14 campaigns. They ended up finishing fourth the first time and then second on both other occasions. Most recently, it was City who leapfrogged Brendan Rodgers’ side in the final weeks of the 2013-14 season. Liverpool were five points clear of their closest rivals that time with five matches to go, but then suffered a 2-0 loss to Chelsea. The Reds dropped more points against Crystal Palace the following week when they threw away a 3-0 lead to allow the Eagles to salvage a 3-3 draw.
There is a feeling, though, that with this Liverpool team history won’t repeat itself. Jürgen Klopp has constructed a formidable force in front of goal, but most importantly has sorted out the side’s defensive woes. After 19 games played, the German’s charges had only conceded seven goals making them by far the tightest back line in the league. The only thing that could affect this form would be an injury to Virgil Van Dijk, who has started every game so far this season. Without the Dutchman bossing the back line, Liverpool could welcome back some of the calamitous errors they have been famous for in recent years.
Liverpool will certainly be nervously looking over their shoulders now, with Spurs also in dangerous form. One thing is for certain, there is definitely going to be a fierce title race this season. This is good news, seeing as a lot of pundits had previously predicted that City would effortlessly swagger to the title once again.
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