Just 11 millimetres – less than half an inch. It may be the margin between this Premier League title race being over, with Liverpool the champions-elect, and back on, as Manchester City dug deep to reduce their rivals’ lead to just four points when it could have been 10.
That would have felt like a chasm, a daunting gulf, but City fought back like the champions they are while the raw, baying atmosphere inside the Etihad was extraordinary.
On a night of high drama, Pep Guardiola’s side inflicted Liverpool’s first league defeat of the season, after 21 matches, but had John Stones not astonishingly cleared the ball off the line when the game was goalless then the destiny of the title could have been settled already.
Goal-line technology showed Stones did so before the remaining 11 millimetres of the ball had crossed. Maybe City would have surged back but once ahead, recent history has shown Liverpool are extremely difficult to peg back and a draw would have been good enough for them.
Fine margins, as they say, and few have been finer – and almost as fine was City’s winning goal, struck by Leroy Sane, whose shot actually hit both posts before trundling over the goal-line.
Maybe, also, it would have been even harder for City had Vincent Kompany been sent off in the first half, as he could have been, for a two-footed lunge at Mohamed Salah. The City captain saw yellow but it could easily have been red.
For Jurgen Klopp, who certainly thought it was a dismissal and worse than the offence that saw Sadio Mane sent off here last season, this was a frustrating loss. Even more so after his team had pulled level following Sergio Aguero’s superb opener, the 250th league goal of his career.
Tactically Klopp may also have got it wrong with his midfield selection of James Milner, who was dominated by Fernandinho, while Guardiola varied his approach, unashamedly and often going long to hit his front three and beat Liverpool’s press.
Tottenham Hotspur are still in this title contest as well, and this was also a good result for them if they have genuine ambition to challenge. City, though, had to win. And did, for only the second time against Liverpool in 12 matches.
“We can’t deny, this is massive,” Guardiola pronounced pre-match and to borrow a favoured song from four miles or so away at Old Trafford, this was the one. At the final whistle, if there was any doubt as to its importance, Guardiola let out a visceral roar of relief after earlier having been spoken to by Anthony Taylor, the referee, for berating the fourth official, Martin Atkinson.
It was incredibly intense and tense. There was intent, aggression and a sharp competitiveness – and that was just from the cajoling, gesticulating, imploring, relentless duo of Guardiola and Klopp on the touchline.
They both stood still, though, as Salah surged forward, combining smartly with Roberto Firmino and slipping a pass through to the elusive Mane, who stole a yard on Stones before beating Ederson with a low shot.
It thumped back off the post with Stones’s attempted clearance cannoning back off Ederson, who had got in his defender’s way as he dived to try to collect the loose ball. It flew goalwards, bounced on the line but remarkably Stones scrambled back to hook clear before it fully went into the goal and before Salah pounced on it. Even then it went through Salah’s legs. “Close. VERY close” as the Premier League’s official Twitter feed put it after the goal-line technology confirmed “no goal”.
Instead of being a goal down, and possibly also a man down, City found themselves ahead with, again, Aguero the scorer. It was a predator’s goal and he is the ultimate predator. Having hit the turf as he challenged Virgil van Dijk, Aguero picked himself up to take one touch, as he met Bernardo Silva’s cross, and strike a powerful rising left-footed half-volley from the tightest of angles to beat Alisson Becker high at his near post.
Just as City were struggling, Aguero had intervened to maintain a record of always scoring against Liverpool here – a run of seven games. It felt like a tough scoreline for Liverpool to take, although fingers will have been pointed at Dejan Lovren for his slow reaction as Aguero stole in.
City then felt their own sense of injustice as Raheem Sterling ran into the Liverpool area, checked and argued he was hauled down by Andrew Robertson, with his penalty appears waved away.
Klopp had seen enough, shuffling his midfield by bringing on Fabinho, desperate to wrestle away Fernandinho’s control, and there was a response.
They drew level. Trent Alexander-Arnold crossed deep from the right and it was met by the other full-back, Robertson, running in behind Danilo, who misjudged the flight. Robertson volleyed back across goal and there was Firmino to stoop and head home.
What next? Could City respond? There was time. And there was another twist.
Sane had been a growing threat and he provided the decisive breakthrough as City poured forward and Sterling smartly checked to remain onside before transferring the ball out left. Sane took a touch and drove a low shot back across Alisson. It struck the far post, then the near and deflected into the goal. It had swung again and maybe also had the title race.
Nerves shredded. After Ederson superbly saved from Salah, Guardiola reacted furiously, believing there had been a foul in the build-up, and his fury rarely subsided, although there was disbelief when Alisson beat out a fierce shot by Bernardo and Sterling drove the rebound wide.
He had to score but Liverpool could not take advantage of the five minutes of added time and City had their win. A month ago they were five points clear. They could have been 10 points behind. Instead it is four. “Post in or post out can make a massive difference,” Klopp said. Just like those 11 millimetres. It was that tight. This title race, hopefully, will go down to a photo finish.
Bernardo Silva was busy
13.7 - Bernardo Silva covered 13.7 kilometres (8.5 miles) against Liverpool, the most by any player in a Premier League game this season. Endurance. pic.twitter.com/QTZewXE1mn
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2019
And almost all of this was done at full sprint. I'm tired from watching him.
Jurgen Klopp post-match
"Very intense game. We were unlucky in our finishing moments, a bit more than City I would say. They had periods where they dominated the game but we came back into it, had chances, we had Mo, Gini, all that stuff, it's always like this. When you look at Aguero's goal there's no angle! There's no angle. It's in the roof. It was not our best game, not City's best game because we both made life difficult for the other team. I've said already to the boys that's completely OK, we could have won we could have drawn but that's OK.
"One situation when I really like Vincent Kompany but how on earth is that not a red card?! He's the last man! And if he hits Mo more then he's out for the rest of the season. It's like it is, sometimes the ref for sure it's not easy but it's all OK, they scored two we scored one.
"Our expectation was pretty high, we can play better. It started not that well, had two little balls that we lost, so it was immediately hectic. That's what happens with the respect we have for each other. It was a very intense game. You have to take the game as it is, you cannot always dominate. You can always learn from it. With a bit more luck we could have scored, it's not half that good.
"The boys did outstandingly well. We have to show constantly that we are on top of our game and now in four days is FA Cup and then Brighton and we will be ready for that."
Benjamin Mendy mistaken for a fan by security
Gary Neville compliments the Man City fans
"I've never seen this place like this before. It's the best I've ever seen the atmosphere here."
Pep Guardiola says
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2019
"The boxes made a difference but it was a real game for both sides. The feeling we would score because the people connect, from the first minute happy to the victory, to reduce our gap and go second position in the table.
"We don't have a left back! We have Zinchenko but I didn't want to put young guys in against Salah. Laporte is a huge compliment. We were outstanding.
"We need Sergio in this kind of game, he has special quality in these kinds of games.
"They had the first clear chance, we were lucky, we play real good, create a lot of chances. We play with courage, so aggressive, when you give a lot of space behind your back four they're incredibly fast.
"We cannot forget we are still four points behind them and they are the leaders. We cannot forget we play many many times without key players, Fernandinho, Kevin, David Silva. Of course it's going to be extra for us to have a few days rest."
Paul Hayward on what this win means
Here's our own Paul Hayward with words that I'd always recommend reading:
Manchester City and Liverpool show character to justify the hoopla - for that we have the managers to thank.
Souness loves it
"When you think of great players you think of what they do on the ball but here was two sets of players doing it off the ball. It was a fabulous game of football. "
Man City players react
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2019
"I'm not even worried about the result, I'm buzzing about a tremendous performance. We went toe to toe with a very physical aggressive side and more than matched them.
"It came from the gut. We said today the 12th man is more than just the fans, it's from within, a desire you can't describe. We're a better team when we play with emotions.
"I thought it was a great challenge. Was it not? On the pitch I thought I got the ball, a little bit of the man but it wasn't naughty, I wasn't trying to injure him. But it was that or let him through on goal.
"Tried to just take everything because he was coming back to his own goal but gladly reacted quite quickly and I've heard it's quite tight. It's one of those things you see it all the time where the keeper's shouting and the forward's closing, I tried to take him and the ball (laughs) and it's come back off him. In the first half we set a great tempo, created great chances and wanted to take that into the second half.
"I think they (the fans) feel the same as us, in second position trying to get close to Liverpool. There's so many games to play, the magnitude of the game tonight was everything. Everyone got behind us, we were so unselfish."
Man City ended Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League start to the season in the 21st match - only Arsenal in 2003-04 (38 games), Man Utd in 2010-11 (24) and Man City in 2017-18 (22) have had longer unbeaten starts to a Premier League season.
This was only Man City’s second win in their last 12 matches against Liverpool in all competitions (D3 L7), winning at the Etihad in the Premier League in each of the last two seasons.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Sergio Aguero has scored 37 Premier League goals for Man City in meetings between ‘big six’ clubs – 16 more than any other player.
Liverpool have lost 10 of their 25 matches in all competitions under Jurgen Klopp in the month of January (W8 D7), making up 29% of his total defeats as Reds boss (10 of 35).
Sergio Aguero has scored in all seven of his Premier League appearances for Manchester City against Liverpool at the Etihad, scoring one goal in each game.
Since the start of last season, Leroy Sane has been involved in 26 goals in 25 home Premier League appearances for Manchester City (9 goals, 17 assists).
Roberto Firmino has scored his 10th goal of the season for Liverpool in all competitions, registering double figures for the fourth consecutive season (11 in 2015-16, 12 in 2016-17, 27 in 2017-18).
Liverpool conceded more than once in a Premier League game for the first time since drawing 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion in April.
Man City won a Premier League match against a team starting the day top of the table for the first time since winning 2-1 against Liverpool in December 2013.
Liverpool still top
That win is massive. A big three points - how will Liverpool manage the mental dent that could cause?
Some little graphics for you
Man that was good.
FULL TIME! MAN CITY WIN!
What a game! The title race is back on! Was it ever off?!
90 mins +5 - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
This is amazing. City are just pumping the ball away every time as a clearance, Liverpool are punting it towards the box to try and win a second ball... it's so unlike a Man City vs Liverpool game that it's funny. Van Dijk goes nuts as a dreadful chip forward goes out for a goal kick.
Ederson is booked for taking too long with that goal kick. I doubt he'll care.
90 mins +4 - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Sturridge came on for Wijnaldum a while ago by the way, there's so much going on that it escaped being published on this here blog. Liverpool have thrown Van Dijk upfront to chase the goal. Danilo clears when Ederson could have claimed. The ball is dropping into the area, Liverpool sending players forward. Lovren is the last man and inside his own centre-circle. A massive couple of minutes are coming.
Aguero shoots from 70 yards and does not score.
90 mins+2 - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Bernardo is booked for a high tackle on Fabinho and cheers on a loose pass that gives City a throw-in. Sane shields the ball well, runs down the left, is tackled and a mistake puts Bernardo in on goal! He's one v one but the angle is tight... Alisson saves! The ball drops to Sterling, he has time and space, he has to absolutely thump this one...
Wide! Ooooooohhhhh that was a massive chance.
89 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Kompany asks to be replaced as Otamendi gets ready to come on, but that wasn't the substitution Guardiola wanted to make. I think Pep wanted to go to back three to defend the final part of this game.
87 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Walker comes on for Laporte, which might mean Danilo goes to left-back. Liverpool are pushed right up into City's half trying to break down the defensive block they've set up.
Walker's actually gone to left-back which is presumably to prevent Alexander-Arnold and Shaqiri coming inside the pitch. Walker is right-footed so can naturally defend those spaces better.
85 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
WHAT A SAVE! Guardiola is going mental at the assistant referees. There's a foul, probably, maybe, at half way and Liverpool have a chance to attack as a result of it... Salah is played through... and Ederson makes an unbelievable diving save to deny the goal. Wowzers.
Guardiola is furious about it and the referee has to come across to have a word.
83 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Liverpool are passing around now, every player booed by the home crowd. Bernardo Silva is still running like some sort of Duracel bunny that has been struck by lightning.
And there's a scramble inside the City box! It's all over the place, Liverpool have men over and Kompany throws a head at it to get clear. And that's started a counter-attack! It's three v two! Sterling burns past Robertson, has Sane in miles of space... waits.... waits... and it's a disguise! He threads the pass into Aguero's smart run and tees up a shot. Aguero is forced wide by the goalkeeper and then blocked.
This game is still being played at an insane intensity.
80 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
Fernandinho plays another 'pass of the night' with a hit over the top for Aguero to chase. He's so nearly through on goal but the ball just doesn't bounce where he needs it to in his running stride.
City are passing the ball around now, looking to slow things down a wee bit. Liverpool pressing the ball with a forward three.... and suddenly Sane is away again! Sterling has time and space on the right... but can't sort his feet out. Robertson was always going to win that back.
78 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
De Bruyne is warming up on the sidelines too. Bernardo might have run about 25 miles here today, he's put in a mental shift of effort to chase the ball around.
Apart from all the talent out there, it's plain that Man City and Liverpool are teams of great character. Both are relishing this fight.
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) January 3, 2019
Shaqiri replaces Mane.
76 mins - Man City 2 Liverpool 1
There are a lot of nervous looking players on this pitch. Heaps of them slipping them too, Aguero nearly profits from a slip in midfield then slips himself, then Danilo has a wild swing at a clearance and is rescued by his goalkeeper.
Liverpool substitution getting ready to come on. Enter Shaqiri.
SANE SCORES! WHAT A FINISH!
Sane makes a horrible mistake - the very first in the rule book of where not to lose the ball against Liverpool, taking too long in possession in the buildup. Sterling brings the ball forward though, Aguero runs to take Alexander-Arnold away from Sane on his left, freeing up the space. Sane arrives at the right time, takes a touch and then drills a perfectly placed snooked shot into the bottom corner. City are back in front!
71 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 1
Alexander-Arnold is getting much further forward in this half, or since Fabinho has come on anyway, and it means Liverpool have width and can really stretch the Man City defence open. It's hard to tell who's in control at any point in this game but Liverpool certainly seem the more dangerous at the moment.
68 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 1
Gundogan comes on for David Silva. Sterling takes on half the Liverpool defence and Aguero tries to knick the ball round the corner of Lovren... his touch isn't quite good enough though and it's a goal kick.
LIVERPOOL ARE BACK IN IT!
Alexander-Arnold creates it with a dummy and searching cross to the back post, Robertson is there and perfectly cushions a volleyed pass across the six yard box to Firmino, who throws his body at it and scores into an empty net!
64 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
CITY ARE IN A MESS! A free-kick is crossed in from deep, Ederson comes off his line way too early and Kompany clears! But Liverpool are on the ball... can they forge a chance to shoot? Firmino takes it wide, drills low at goal... and it's blocked! City clear. Liverpool growing into this game, City dropping deeper and deeper.
63 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
Fernandinho has been a 10/10 all game here. He's destroying, linking, driving... it's the perfect defensive midfield performance. So far!
60 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
Ederson has just played a 70 yard pass to the boot of Sane... it's astonishing. "An absolute joke," says G Neville on co-comms. I think Liverpool are in a 4-2-3-1 type shape. It shifts from a 4-1-3-1-1 and 4-4-1-1 at times too but basically they have two central midfielders and one slightly further forward to help with the counter, Firmino floats around behind Salah as a striker.
58 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
ALEXANDER-ARNOOOOLLLLDDDDDDD shoots wide. The ball sat up for him so nicely that the referee might have had to book him if he hadn't had a ping but this time the ball flies wide.
Fabinho is on for Milner... and Liverpool might have changed their shape.
56 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool are waiting for the chance to break and run through the middle... and Alexander-Arnold can do it now! He zooms into the City half but is slowed down and the City midfield forms a block to deny any other opportunities to attack.
Sterling is seriously quick and City are trying to get him one v one with Robertson. The Scot makes an excellent recovery slide tackle to stop Sterling fleeing through on goal.
54 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
Mane sprints forward into a massive space on the left wing, darting onto a lifted pass from midfield. Stones reads it, chases and blocks well to make the cross land in Ederson's hands.
Sterling takes on Robertson for pace, cuts back and is hauled to the floor by Robertson... it looks more like both players lost their balance, or at least that Robertson simply can't stop and turn - there's no deliberate action to foul Sterling. Long story short, it's not a penalty.
City are playing really well here and are finding room in the final third. Fernandinho has the ball in space 25 yards out and makes the mistake of listening to the City fans yelling "SHOOOT" at him.
51 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool are still defending in a 4-4-2, trying to box off Man City's defenders from passing forwards. It means that Salah's having to race back to right midfield to help defend against Sane, which isn't ideal.
City have the ball bouncing around the final third, Sane gets a pass inside the area but Lovren turns his back on him and shields it out of play.
48 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
City aren't trying to keep the ball forever here and are making sure it's not kept in dangerous pressing trap areas (halfway). Bernardo nips onto a loose ball, drives at goal and it looks like Van Dijk is going to step in with a tackle and foul him inside the area. I'm just waiting for it to happen... but he reads Bernardo's movement and forces him outside without sticking the boot in.
KICK OFF 2
We're back! City start the second half.
John Stones and the Philosopher's Goal-line Clearance
That gogogadgeto save from Stonesey is absolutely incredible ������������
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) January 3, 2019
You’ll do well to see a better 45min display by a centre midfielder all season than what we’ve seen from Fernandinho tonight. #ManCityvLFC
— Jermaine Jenas (@jjenas8) January 3, 2019
Souness is genuinely happy this evening
"In a normal game of football you don't get this intensity! Liverpool will come back but that makes it dangerous for them if they chase it."
Graeme Souness is enjoying it
"The energy the players have expended in that 45 minutes would be normal for 90 minutes in any other Premier League match."
The midfield is lava
Neither side wants to risk being robbed of the ball in midfield which is why passes are in higher number between centre-backs and out to the wide players. City are carrying the ball up the wings, Liverpool are passing out wide then vertically back inside. Milner is getting forward a lot.
Aguero's goalscoring exploits
Sergio Aguero last scored fewer than 10 league goals in a season in 2006-07, when he was 18
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) January 3, 2019
Laporte is booked for a comedy foul on Milner, Liverpool can't make use of their free-kick and there's the whistle!
That was ace. Fantastic fun. And the goal was a great end to it. Liverpool are totally in this match and the second half could go any number of different ways... for now only one goal separates the teams.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2019
45 mins - Man City 1 Liverpool 0
City full of confidence now and running with energy straight at Liverpool, who do not seem to like it. The passing has bit more zip to it now too. Liverpool have held their own since the goal though and can tell City are nervous - Stones and Kompany are getting rid of the ball in their own half, just looking to get to half time with the score as it is.
CITY TAKE THE LEAD!
WHAT A FINISH! City get the ball into the final third, Sterling tries to work a chance to shoot but is crowded out and Silva gets in his way. Laporte keeps it alive on the left, Bernardo joins in and finds Aguero with a clever little pass, then Aguero has to beat Alisson from a ludicrously tight angle and batters the volley into the roof of the net. It's a brilliant shot and this game is now alight!
39 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool attacking 47.1 per cent down the left towards Danilo, City going down the left 49.4 per cent of the time. Sane's the winger there, which means Sterling can nip in at the back post with a classic 'switcharoo' move.
Wijnaldum pulls down Sane, who slips as he flies into Henderson and wipes him out. It looks bad but it's not really his fault. Wijnaldum is booked for the pull on Wijnaldum.
36 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
This game is progressing slowly but surely towards a state of Having Everything
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) January 3, 2019
Everything except a goal that is. City's passing hasn't been as good as it can be, Liverpool are calm and defending well, mostly attacking down the right wing for now.
34 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Kompany is lucky to be on the pitch. His first touch is loose and the ball runs away from him so Kompany has to recover. He runs and lunges in with a jumping slide tackle...
Salah is fine (obviously he rolls around a lot first) and Kompany gets only a yellow card.
31 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
What a ball by Fernandinho! He takes a fired pass from Bernardo and after one touch, hits a beautiful ball over the top for Sterling. He stands up and cuts back on Robertson, plays a low cut back to David Silva... but he takes a touch before shooting into bodies. Liverpool survive!
Liverpool are trying outnumber City in wide areas, doubling up on Danilo in particular.
28 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
HOW HAS THAT STAYED OUT?
Mane is played through by Salah, his effort hits the post and then it somehow stays out.
Watch live on Sky Sports PL & Main Event or follow here: https://t.co/AlaCpCXy8Jpic.twitter.com/Bql8qDzoRP
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2019
Liverpool are staying cautious with their passing... and as I type that Van Dijk takes exception and boots a switched ball out to the wing that hands possession back to City. Bernardo loses out but Alisson then chips the ball straight to Danilo. It's back and forth, still no control of the game for either side.
25 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Aguero takes on Robertson on the right wing and does well to hold him off then run past with pace but eventually Liverpool win the ball back on the opposite side and Fernandinho has to go back. Ederson recycles the move, Milner wins the tackle off Milner.
City aren't quite clicking in the final third yet.
You can see already how narrow Liverpool are trying to be in attack and defence compared to how wide City want to stretch the pitch:
22 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Lovren is booked for a Lovren Special, wiping out Aguero on the run with a late - and bad - slide tackle. If there was a gif to accompany the description of a yellow card offence, that is it.
Meanwhile, the replays have just shown how close Liverpool to going 1-0 up when Stones cleared off the line...
20 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
WOW! SCRAMBLE! This is chaos!!!! Alexander-Arnold shows brilliant skill to beat the pressing Sane and starts a counter. Salah tricks his way between players, sends Mane away behind the defence and he shoots low to the corner but it hits the post!
City defenders charge to close down the rebound but Stones boots it straight off Ederson as the goalie dives to try and smother! The ball nearly flies into the City net, Salah closes in but it's cleared off the line by Stones! So close.
18 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
City are defending in numbers but the shape isn't great, just bodies in various positions trying to block the path to goal. Liverpool get into the final third but wait for overlaps and the move slows down, then Salah is muscled out of it by Fernandinho.
No shots on goal yet.
15 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool are a 4-3-3 in attack but are playing as a 4-4-2 depending on the side of the pitch the ball is on. When Mane is closer to it Salah pulls out wide and deep, and vice versa.
It's still pretty frantic on the pitch, neither side has taken control yet or shown anything like composure in possession.
12 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Both teams are wary of each other, making sure the centre-backs are deeper than they might normally be so there's always a backwards pass.
Liverpool's centre-backs tend to start a little higher than this, closer to the white line than where they are. They're also doing the same as City, moving to a back three with Alexander-Arnold the right centre-back.
10 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
City fans are doing their bit tonight. Jeering, whistling and booing every Liverpool pass. Alisson makes another bad pass out to Robertson but now Liverpool have evaded the press! Sane gets caught in two minds, the cross comes in from wide right, Mane attacks it and the ball comes off a blue shirt and is going in the goal! Ederson saves.
7 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
This youngster has gone with the 'serial killer at a football match' font for their sign today. It might not even be for the football, this could be some ongoing YouTube feud that nobody else understands.
6 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Fernandinho jumps high to win a header in midfield, charges forward and flies into Andy Robertson at full speed. It's accidental but Fernandinho was running to try and stay on his feet, off balance from a Henderson nudge. City have turned up here.
4 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool are defending in a (very narrow) 4-4-2 shape at the moment. Aguero steals the ball on the left and runs to the box but his pass goes straight out of play, the City crowd are making some noise - the first few minutes have been pretty frantic. A very high press from City is forcing mistakes. Boos every time a red shirt has the ball.
2 mins - Man City 0 Liverpool 0
Foul throw 40 seconds in from Danilo. It's the Premier League though so the referee doesn't care. Shocking scenes here already.
Alisson shanks a clearance out for a throw under minimal pressure... nervy start?
Laporte at left back for City has been the big talking point pre-match but nobody has mentioned Alisson shaving his beard off. Could prove crucial tonight.
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) January 3, 2019
Liverpool get the game started to a chorus of boos!
Pep greets Klopp
Pep is late out the tunnel and he and Klopp share a nice little bro-hug. It's lovely that football doesn't have to be all anger and fighting doesn't it? Almost as though humans can co-exist without having to identify and fight for their tribe. We are all as one.
Now, let's see some BONE CRUNCHING TACKLES! KABLAAAAA
Here come the teams!
City's lack of feeling for the Champions League often cited as reason for lack of atmopshere on European nights. On this evidence they don't care much for the Premier League either
— Kieran Canning (@KieranCanning) January 3, 2019
Might watch the football.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 3, 2019
A wee reminder of the starting lineups for tonight:
Another possible Man City shape
This is another possible Man City shape. If Laporte and Danilo move into midfield alongside Fernandinho they can form a three that that helps block Liverpool counter-attacks.
Everything depends on where the ball is and how the team looks at the time... but City use this shape quite often, usually when Zinchenko and Delph are in the XI. As natural midfielders they're better at moving inside the pitch and picking passes.
"We must defend and attack well, we know each other well.
"The boxes will make the difference. It is not a big surprise, the boxes make the difference. When you are precise front and back."
I'm not sure what he means by boxes but it makes most sense that this refers to how the team defends and attacks the penalty area.
"No team can go here and expect three points, you have to work really hard and suffer specific moments. They'll have moments but that's what makes us a bit more dangerous, put them under pressure with and without the ball.
"Playing as much as you can, closing the gaps, playing smart, create organised chaos in their defence with our runs. There is a lot to talk about but in the end if I give all the information to the players we have only four days... the boys know what to do."
Man City fans delighted with Sky Sports' choice of commentary team
Both huge Man City fans.
It could get even worse for City...
Losing tonight would be bad but words from Uefa's chief investigator will worry them far more. He has confirmed Manchester City could face a Champions League ban...
That's a great story by Tom Morgan btw. I thoroughly suggest you give it a read while we're waiting for the game.
Newsletters are nice
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Is Jurgen Klopp up to tricks?
Or just trying to pinch some warm-up ideas from Pep's team?
Other possible explanations from him stood in the centre-circle staring at Man City going through their preparations are he's trying to psyche them out or work out if any of the players seem tense/nervous so he can tell his own players to go after them.
Jurgen Klopp: a keen observer of City’s warm-up pic.twitter.com/RUqGueTVm0
— Jack Gaughan (@Jack_Gaughan) January 3, 2019
I'll take this opportunity to point out that Klopp does actually tend to be on the pitch during warm-ups and does do this a lot.
There were rumours that Andy Roberson would miss tonight’s game as his wife is in labour and that Moreno would take his place.
I personally would have no problem with that, all he has to do is hold her hand and avoid knocking the gas & air equipment over
— Sean Rogers (@Sean_Rogers) January 3, 2019
Jurgen Klopp on Man City
"I really like Pep and really admire him. For me the best coach in the world and I don't just say that, for me City is the best team in the world. I spoke about City because you asked me, he spoke about us because someone asked.
"I work on us to show that we make them a bit less good... but they are really, really, really good and that we are in this situation is a surprise! Nobody thought we were seven points ahead before December!
"I don't think the Crystal Palace game was once in a lifetime because they can win that but it needed that Townsend goal, he's like an alien! Pep is right until then, they are stronger than last season. They didn't have a bad day, they just lost the game."
There's a bee
Speaking of bees, there is a bee on the wall of Etihad. As we all know, it is to symbolise the worker bee, an emblem of the city of Manchester. What else do I know? Well, [googles] The bee denotes Mancunians’ hard work ethic and the city being a hive of activity.
And now you know.
The case for Big Vinnie
Man City haven't had the same zip and snap with their passing in recent games that they've shown at their very best in previous times (last season for example) and even though he has nothing to do with that, is regularly out of position and loves a last ditch tackle, Kompany brings an aura and aggression to the City team that they really need. Liverpool are powerful and fly at you like a super swarm of bees. Kompany can bring a battle to aerial duels and stick in a challenge or two but it's what he'll bring off the ball that matters. City need a leader and someone to show them that bravery and aggression is essential at times against teams like Liverpool.
Man City's shape
Imagine this but with Laporte in place of Zinchenko and Danilo for Walker:
Gary Neville has just suggested that Guardiola has put out a really defensive side and thinks it'll be a 3-5-2. It sort of will be, at times. The defensive shape is 4-1-4-1, the attacking shape depends on the phase of play. It's all numbers but the key is width from two attackers and midfield dominance. Pep wants numerical superiority all over the pitch. Three defenders vs three strikers, three midfielders vs three midfielders, two strikers vs two defenders. It makes sense.
Kyle Walker benched
It's a little bit of a surprise that Laporte and Danilo start at full-back today but Walker hasn't been anywhere near his best all season and may actually have been... [whispers] dropped [/whispering] because of it. That could be down to fatigue - he's played a lot - but it's a big call by Pep to leave him out. Laporte starts wide left but will come inside to a central three centre-back unit at times. Salah tends to play on the right wing too and attacks through the centre - Laporte, as a centre-back, is naturally suited to defending against that.
Klopp has gone for a steady midfield, opting for caution here tonight.
Man City's team is in! Laporte left-back, Danilo right-back, the two Silvas in midfield.
Here we go! ⚽️
City XI | Ederson, Danilo, Stones, Kompany (C), Laporte, Fernandinho, Silva, Sane, Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero
Subs | Muric, Walker, Gündogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Otamendi, Jesus
Presented by @haysworldwide �� #mancitypic.twitter.com/Nd3GwZ0BnC
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 3, 2019
Not quite the same build up as last season...
You may recall last season these two teams played some amazing Champions League games against each other. As of the moment, there's no evidence to suggest City fans plan on setting off flares and intimidating their visitors' bus on the way in. Obviously that kind of behaviour "isn't on"... but it is fun.
IT'S HERE! THE BIG ONE! Man City vs Liverpool, a potential title decider and it's live, tonight. Tonight! It's tonight!
Oh it could be a thriller. An action packed, explosions in the background, cars flying over ramps into buildings, Jurgen Klopp fleeing on a rope ladder from a helicopter, Michael Bay production. It could also be a tense 0-0.
I know which one I'd prefer but when asked to guess what will happen, as I have been, my answer is always the same. Absolutely no idea.
Both Pep Guardiola and Klopp have been sharing loving notes to each other ("no, your team is the best in the world <3") and neither is wrong. Liverpool are perhaps the most exciting, dynamic attacking team on the planet on current form but don't forget how Man City controlled the Premier League last season. Injuries may be their undoing here but an overly cautious or wild approach to the match would spell disaster and have big consquences. Lots to decide.
City would climb above Spurs into second place if they win tonight. Defeat would leave them tumbling backwards in the water as the Liverpool speedboat races away into distant waves . To be more specific, a 10 point gap would exist.
All to play for then. The teams will be in at 7pm, at which point we'll know how both sides intend to approach this one. There are a positions that aren't certain - left-back, midfield and forwards for City and the midfield for Liverpool - but it should be a control, fluid 4-1-4-1 vs a narrow attacking 4-3-3.