Saturday 21 September 2019

Stephen Hunt: 'City and 'Pool could clash on two fronts'

Marvellous City Play

Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: PA
Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: PA

Stephen Hunt

Manchester City have set new standards in the last 12 months and we are in for a monumental battle between them and Liverpool for the Premier League and Champions League titles next year.

Kevin De Bruyne's goal in the League Cup win at Leicester the other night summed up perfectly what we expect from Pep Guardiola's team now. It was an amazing piece of skill to score the goal but he made it look so simple.

The Belgian midfielder, only just back after a second injury lay-off this season, shifted the ball from his right to left foot, and back on to his right, in the same movement and then struck his shot past Danny Ward. It was a frightening piece of skill.

City have been streets ahead in terms of ability and the fact that a player like Sergio Aguero has bought into it tells you everything you need to know about Guardiola. Aguero could have moved abroad, earned as much if not more money, scored 20-odd goals a season and won a few medals.

It may be over-exaggerated at times but Guardiola has a way of managing his players which they clearly like and believe in. He doesn't seem to tolerate players who step out of line, because it's his way or the highway. But then you don't see many City players wanting to take the highway.

City and Liverpool should go head-to-head in the league and Europe. I hope the title race in particular is not a one-horse canter.

Liverpool's Champions League win over City in the first leg at Anfield in March was one of the highlights of the football year. Jurgen Klopp's men had to produce one of the best performances of the season to overcome City and on a night like that, Anfield really is a special place. It creates an atmosphere that other clubs and grounds just cannot replicate.

It's a shame really that Liverpool's Champions League dream was over the moment Sergio Ramos put Mo Salah to ground in the final. I said at the time it was deliberate. Ramos knew what he was doing and that was winning at all costs. I am sure, if he was to relive the moment, Salah would be more prepared, know the player, and recognise the dangers.

It was a strange World Cup for those of us watching in England. In 2002, watching Damien Duff bow down to the Ireland fans in celebration was a magical moment which inspired me as a young lad trying to make my way in the game in England.

Fast-forward 16 years and I was sitting in a pub full of England fans, watching an England team being supported in a way I have never seen before. It is the first time I have really wanted England to do well and I was gutted for them when they went out. But that is what Gareth Southgate created. The whole nation still goes over the top and bonkers when a tournament gathers momentum, but this time it was justified.

This England team seems likeable, you don't hope they will lose because of certain individuals in the team. There's no Beckham in there messing with his hair before he takes free-kicks, it is about the team, not players' egos.

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