Saturday 18 November 2017

Kuyt feels the heat in race with rivals City

Duncan White

Such is the strident pitch of the Premier League soap opera that clubs veer alarmingly from seamless success story to crippling crisis. The match between Manchester City and Liverpool this afternoon is set up to be one of those highly-charged tipping points.

In the race for fourth, and the guaranteed wealth it brings with qualification for the Champions League, this is a fixture that will shape the run-in. With reports suggesting Craig Bellamy has fallen out with Roberto Mancini (denied by the City manager), Carlos Tevez on indefinite compassionate leave in Argentina after the premature birth of his child and Patrick Vieira suspended for three matches for violent conduct against Stoke last week, City could do with some good news.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have been making what might kindly be called attritional progress up the table, returning to stability after a miserable winter.

Thursday night's win over Romanian club Unirea in the Europa League was soul-sappingly dull but it brought with it another clean sheet, meaning Liverpool have conceded just once in nine hours. Needless to say, both clubs are feeling the pressure.

"It's just a really big game and if we can win this game we will be back in it and if we lose it we have a big problem," said Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool's industrious wide midfielder. "We all look back a couple of months ago and we would have preferred to be in a better position than this position, but at the end of the day it is what it is and we have to try and win this game and try to finish in the top four and we think we have the quality to do that."

This game also represents a larger struggle. When people reflect on the history of these two clubs in the future, this could be seen as a transition season. Liverpool is a club struggling to hang on to its grand status, undermined by owners who have plunged it into debt and by a lack of direction for the future. City, by contrast, are growing by the week, seeking to become a European superclub.

The change in status can be measured by the transfer of Gareth Barry to Eastlands last summer. He had long been courted by Liverpool after being identified as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, but ended up choosing City when he eventually left Aston Villa.

Sure, he would earn more money with City but Barry is no fool and he was as much sold on the ambition coursing through his new club. Liverpool's players have come out in proud defence of their club though.

There is no question that pulling on the red shirt and playing at Anfield still has an iconic cachet that is a draw for players with a sense of the history of the game.

"The history of Liverpool is much, much bigger and every now and again you see clubs doing things like Manchester City now and Chelsea a few years ago," said Kuyt.

"It happens but it's very difficult to buy the history of Liverpool. I don't know whether more players will join City for the money. For every player it's a different situation. I think the most important thing for a player is to win trophies and be successful as a football player," added Kuyt.

Sunday Independent

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