In an ideal world Manchester City would have liked to have beaten Liverpool on Sunday. Of course they would.
Although Liverpool have endured a difficult start to the season, they are still arguably – unless Arsenal keep up their current form – the side best equipped to stop City winning the Premier League for a third successive season.
A win at Anfield would have put City 16 points clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side, but in reality the gap is now 10. Should Liverpool win their game in hand then it will be cut to seven. Last season Liverpool showed they are capable of clawing their way back from a seemingly impossible position, and with Mohamed Salah returning to form they are more than capable of doing so again.
A 16-point buffer would have provided comfort, but it did not happen. Pep Guardiola and his players no-doubt returned to Manchester extremely frustrated, but now they must do what they have repeatedly done over the last five years. When things go wrong they identify the issues, address them, move on from the disappointment and go again. With three tough fixtures coming up over the next 10 days, they need to.
Following Sunday’s results City are now four points behind league leaders Arsenal, so the Blues must beat Brighton on Saturday to avoid giving them too much to do after the World Cup. The Seagulls – a side City do tend to overcome whenever they meet – are under new management following the departure of Graham Potter.
In Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton have a coach Guardiola arguably admires even more than Potter. The Italian coach made an instant impact when his side tore Liverpool limb-from-limb at Anfield a few weeks ago, although in the end they had to settle for a 3-3 draw. Since then Brighton have lost to Spurs and Brentford without scoring, but they will prove tough opposition nevertheless.
Next Tuesday City will take on Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League at Signal Iduna Park, one of the toughest places to go in European football. The Blues have already secured a place in the last-16, but with both teams having drawn last time out, top spot in Group G – and the seeding for the last-16 draw that comes with it – is still very much up for grabs.
Four days after that is a trip to Leicester. The Foxes may well be 19th in the table having claimed just one win from 10 games, but the King Power Stadium is a ground City have tended to struggle at under Guardiola. Back-to-back clean sheets at home in the league will give the hosts confidence too.
City had a bad weekend, but it came early enough in the season not to matter too much. Should the dwell on it then things could get trickier, but history suggests they won’t.