Sunday 25 August 2019

Man City are even winning when their title rivals do battle

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are in a strong position Photo: PA
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are in a strong position Photo: PA

Chris Bascombe

Even when Manchester City's rivals face each other, Pep Guardiola wins. Antonio Conte certainly felt that way at Anfield, the Chelsea manager's content with a point contaminated by concern at how little dent it made into City's lead.

"Manchester City's path is incredible, no?" said Conte. "I think Manchester City in this season is a strong team.

"Also, last season, Manchester City was a fantastic team. Then after the transfer market, they bought their first targets and improved a lot. They can do this also in January maybe, and in the future.

"For this reason we must be worried because if we want to compete with Manchester City we have to work and then make the best decisions in the transfer market."

Such references to first targets sound suspiciously barbed. If Chelsea fail to defend their title, Conte can argue ground was not lost on weekends such as this, but during the serene recruitment period of June and July.

Whatever his interpretation, he can find reassurance from a game which hinted the champions are best equipped among the chasing pack to prevent a title procession.

Fortuitous

The late, fortuitous circumstances of Chelsea's draw - secured by the 86th-minute Willian cross he later declared a deliberate chip - will not disguise how good the visitors were.

It may have taken them longer to recover from a difficult start this season, but they are comfortably the most impressive visitors to this stadium so far.

Their organisation, resilience and capacity to turn defence into attack with an Eden Hazard shuffle ensured that while Liverpool were exasperated with the manner they dropped two points, in truth they did well to compete for so long against superior opponents.

But for the excellence of Cesar Azpilicueta, Liverpool may have added to Mohamed Salah's opening goal before their defence succumbed.

Equally, once Cesc Fabregas and Willian were introduced, Chelsea took control and looked likely winners.

Not for the first time, Liverpool showed that while they continue to improve, they still have much to learn. And some believe they are not absorbing information quickly enough.

Essentially, Klopp was 30 seconds in Seville and four minutes here away from enjoying one of his most satisfying weeks in charge. But he continues to repel the notion every setback is an asteroid strike.

Klopp still has problems to solve, but they are healthy. Far better to work out how to protect leads against top-class opponents than to lack the quality to get into such advantageous positions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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