Can anyone stop Manchester City from winning the Premier League?

Amy Lawrence

There was something in Pep Guardiola’s face that looked like acceptance, maybe even a small amount of happiness, when he pondered the pocket of pressure Manchester City were briefly under at the end of their midweek win at Watford. For ages the game felt like a mild breeze, until a late goal for Watford produced a mini storm. Perhaps (admittedly it might be overthinking this here) Guardiola even welcomed it as a timely lesson for his players. “Never can you forget to play,” he stressed in a pointed manner that suggested that message was delivered more forcefully in the dressing room. In a way Liverpool’s capacity to keep close enough to City is a help – a motivational force of sorts. Even so, they do carry themselves through games with that ultra-confidence of a heavy favourite who expects to win. An off day against a keyed-up opponent is possible. Liverpool and Man United did it last season. Lyon this. It can be done, but it won’t be very often. Manchester City have the squad with the strongest depth, the most reliable gameplan, and their motivation remains unblemished.

Dominic Fifield

Clearly, Manchester City could be stopped. Liverpool remain unbeaten and only two points behind the champions, and still have to go to the Etihad this season. They won there in the Champions League in April, albeit in very different circumstances with their hosts chasing the tie. Maybe the resumption of the Champions League campaign in the new year will disrupt City’s rhythm and see them take the eye off the ball. And Liverpool, it seems, are still to hit their stride. Imagine what they could achieve when they actually start playing well. For those craving an injection of drama into the title race next spring, therein lies the hope. But, in truth, it feels highly doubtful City will be stopped. There is too much quality in their ranks, too much conviction in their philosophy, and too many players still hungry to make a proper mark this season. It feels unlikely anyone will stay with them for long.

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Daniel Taylor

Let’s put it this way: Liverpool have made their best ever start to a league season in the club’s history. They have a player, Mohamed Salah, who scored 44 times last season, won a clean sweep of the individual awards and was unlucky not to feature more prominently in the voting for the Ballon d’Or. Virgil van Dijk is the world’s most expensive centre-half and for a short time there wasn’t another goalkeeper on the planet who cost more than Alisson. Liverpool are a slick, formidable, confident team with 12 wins and three draws from their first 15 games, only six goals conceded and few weaknesses. And here’s the thing: they are two points behind Manchester City, with a vastly inferior goal difference (14 goals worse off, in fact), and even Jürgen Klopp sounds like he is not entirely sure they can overhaul Pep Guardiola’s team. It is certainly achievable for City to outdo their tally of 100 points and 106 goals from last season, or emulate Arsenal’s Invincibles by remaining unbeaten throughout the current campaign, even if it still feels a little early to make those kind of predictions. What can possibly stop them? An injury to Ederson, perhaps? More likely, they will pull even further away over the next five months.

Barney Ronay

Watching this team pass and move, the way every part looks so brilliantly cool and well-drilled, it seems the only answer is: no. City are so good they make every other team in the league look like a supermarket own-brand version of the real thing. But this is also what makes them so fascinating. Surely there must be a way of disrupting this piece of high-end engineering? City play to a formula and formulae can be studied and anticipated; on the other hand knowing someone is about to do something and being able to stop them are two different things. Lyon showed a way to beat City earlier in the season. With the ball they attacked in numbers and tried to score; without it they were incredibly disciplined at filling the holes City like to find. Either Premier League teams haven’t tried to replicate this, or aren’t able to, preferring instead to walk out in a state of quivering fright. Or perhaps City were just off their game that night. On a more prosaic note, prolonged injuries to Fernandinho, Sergio Agüero or even Ederson would change the dynamic.

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Jamie Jackson

The table shows that Liverpool are only two points behind Manchester City ahead of the weekend fixtures while Tottenham Hotspur are eight off the pace in third so it is down to Jürgen Klopp’s side to stop the champions turning the title race into a second successive coronation. To do so they require help and Chelsea can start on Saturday by doing to City what they love doing to oppositions. This means squeezing time and space and bullying Pep Guardiola’s team. Maurizio Sarri has to display tactical flexibility by moving N’Golo Kanté back to his usual defensive-midfield “mad dog” berth to lead the press on City. Liverpool have shown this can unnerve Guardiola’s men and if achieved suddenly holes appear in the rear-guard and they are breached. If Chelsea, and other sides, decide to take the fight to City points could be dropped, confidence dented, and when Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium on 3 January, the championship fight will have a different complexion. In a nutshell bravery is needed otherwise City retaining the crown is a fait accompli.



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