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Can Liverpool or Chelsea catch irresistible Bernardo Silva and table-topping Manchester City?

1:29 PM IST 05/12/21
Bernardo Silva Manchester City
Pep Guardiola's side moved top of the Premier League with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Watford but face a huge challenge to defend their crown

Chelsea started Saturday on top of the Premier League table, Liverpool took over for a couple of hours and Manchester City finished the day as No 1.

After the last two seasons when the winners were known with barely two-thirds of the campaign gone, this is shaping up to be a classic title race.

City and Liverpool have been here before. In the run-in of 2018-19, the pair went punch for punch, winning every week until the final day when Pep Guardiola’s side claimed the crown by a point.

There was something reminiscent about that monumental season on Saturday. City warmed up on the pitch with Jurgen Klopp’s side seemingly heading for a stalemate at Wolves until Divock Origi struck an injury time winner.

In 2019, Guardiola and his coaching staff gave up hope that Liverpool might drop points when they were seemingly struggling, instead expecting a late winner - and they were always right.

With staggered kick-offs, City were often playing catch-up, under pressure to respond with a victory of their own, just as they did at Watford on Saturday.

It made for a gripping title race then and with Chelsea added to the mix, there’s the possibility of an even greater thrill this time around.

“If Liverpool have done it because they have this big quality,” Guardiola said. “Since I am in England, it happens many times and when it happens many times it is because they have this quality that I don't think we have because we have different type of players.

“Today one team dropped points, next week it can be us or Liverpool. Many things can happen. It doesn't matter to be top of the league now, now comes the toughest part of the season with many games and we are trying to continue in this level and rhythm.”

The other similarity from City’s point of view is that Bernardo Silva was the best player in England then and is again now, according to Guardiola.

Virgil van Dijk won the Player of the Year award in 2019 and Liverpool fans will point to the form of Mohamed Salah this time - but for City, Bernardo is irresistible.

He followed up his phenomenal volley against Aston Villa in midweek with another stunning strike against Watford. Just inside the box, he stepped away from Danny Rose to curl a delightful shot into the top corner.

Bernardo had already scored City’s second after Raheem Sterling’s opener to take his season's tally to seven, before equalling his best-ever Premier League total.

Without a striker, the 27-year-old has been a regular as a false nine and is ready to step up and do what is required to hold off strong rivals.

"Liverpool and Chelsea are having an amazing season,” Bernardo told Sky Sports. “It’s tough for us to compete with each other.

“We know the level and standards are very high. We know how tough it is to win the most competitive league in the world. We’re going to try our best, like we always do.

"This season I’ve been scoring a lot and I’ll try to keep it that way. What matters is that we’re top of the league now and the team are doing very well at the moment. At the end of the season we want to celebrate some titles.

"My first four goals this season were all tap-ins. My last few goals have been quite good, but it doesn’t matter - what matters is putting the ball in the back of the net. I’m happy to help the team.

"We know we don’t have a striker. We have a lot of players who try to get in the box and finish. We try to put numbers in the box. If we arrive in the box, we’re going to score goals.”

With Bernardo in a front five alongside Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan, City were simply too strong for Watford.

The link-up and movement was exquisite and City should have had more reward for their 26 shots, of which half were on target.

Grealish could have had a hat-trick but an otherwise impressive performance was spoiled by failing to take big opportunities, with the £100 million ($132m) man asking for a bit of “Donald Duck” in front of goal on social media.

“Scoring goals is the most difficult thing in football and we are not specialists but we are playing really well,” Guardiola added.

“What is important is to create the chances we have done and these players with the quality we have will score one goal.

“What is important is the way we are playing. Results are a little bit random but the consistency is the most important thing. It helps us to be a stable team and that is why we have won seven games in a row.”

Between them, City and Liverpool have contributed the top five Premier League winning streaks of all time over the last four years.

If they do it again and Chelsea can match them, this could be some title race.