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Sorry, Pep, Man City title triumph will be no underdog story

09:00 BST 10/05/2019
Klopp Pep split pic
For the Spaniard to have suggested that the country has wanted and expected Liverpool to win the Premier League is ridiculous

"For many people, the media, they expected the Liverpool do it in the end, but we are there. So, I am sorry for the people that it is in our hands."

Pep Guardiola has said some strange things in his press conferences, but his apology this week tops the lot.

When Vincent Kompany smashed in his match-winner, and goal of the season contender, against Leicester on Monday night, very few football fans wanted to hear the word ‘sorry’ leave the Manchester City boss’ mouth.

“Build a statue of Kompany outside Wembley for his contributions to English football,” tweeted a Chelsea fan – while a small-scale petition has started to knight the City skipper.

The reaction made the idea that ‘the people’ wanted such an apology seem even more ludicrous, with even Manchester United fans preferring that City win the title.

As for ‘expected’? When Liverpool sat seven points ahead of their rivals at the top of the table, they still weren’t 'expected' to win it.

Only twice in the last 10 years have the Christmas Day pacesetters failed to win the Premier League; in the 2008-09 season and the 2013-14 season.

On both occasions, the team in question was Liverpool, and there is a significant chance of them completing the unwanted hat-trick this weekend.

“They are very tough opponents and the big favourites,” Alisson said of Man City in January, despite Liverpool being four points clear.

Even former Red Dean Saunders believed Man City were more equipped than Jurgen Klopp’s side, telling BT Sport: “I would obviously love to see Liverpool win the Premier League after playing for them, but I’ve got a feeling Man City are going to win the lot.”

Asked if he was serious about the prediction of a quadruple, he said: “Yes. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’ve got a feeling they are going to do it.”  

He wasn’t the only one predicting such a feat either, while even the players believed they could do it, with John Stones telling the media: “We're still on for the quadruple and that's the dream we've got to try and achieve.”

How can a team who were so heavily fancied to win four trophies be an underdog?

The idea that the media wanted Liverpool to emerge champions is perhaps Guardiola’s only valid claim – albeit, not because of bias towards the Reds or against his side.

The media want the better story, and the underdog tale – as seen by the reactions to Liverpool and Tottenham’s Champions League successes just this week – is the better story.

For one of the world’s most decorated clubs to end a 29-year wait for a league title by beating out arguably the greatest Premier League team of all time, is some story.

However, those same elements make it all the more unlikely – and make Man City, the reigning, record-breaking champions, the favourites once again.

“If you look at the size of Liverpool and the fact they haven't won the title in so long, there is an air of desperation at the club to win the title,” Gary Neville told Sky Sports.

Raheem Sterling was able to give a unique viewpoint of having played in both atmospheres, having been part of Brendan Rodgers’ team that finished second in 2014.

"On a matchday with the fans, I think that would get to us a little bit. We were in control. We had an opportunity to see it through and we didn't,” he explained of Liverpool's title challenge under Rodgers, adding: "The winning mentality is from the manager.”

The difference in the title race five years ago was certainly the manager. Manuel Pellegrini may have been in his first Premier League season, but he arrived having won many titles South America and Europe, while Rodgers had never won a trophy.

The situation this season is similar. Although Klopp has won two Bundesliga titles and the DFB-Pokal, his trophy haul is nothing compared to Guardiola’s – and the same goes for their squads.

“Jurgen Klopp’s won [a league title] before, [but] James Milner’s the only other one in that dressing room who’s won [the Premier League],” Tim Sherwood told Sky Sports.

“Man City are littered by people who have won the Premier League.

“In the course and distance of the Premier League they know how to get over the line. That is why you have to give them the edge.”

Liverpool were three points clear at the time but, again, they were by no means ‘expected’ to be crowned champions.

In fact, that they are even challenging this City team is a feat in itself.

In Europe, only PSG’s current squad cost more than City’s, which has come at a combined price of £590m (€682m/$764m).

Liverpool’s, meanwhile, cost £515m (€594m/$668m) – and £140m (€163m/$182m) of that was on Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, whose very arrivals have allowed the Reds to give the Premier League a title race.

Without them, England’s top flight might look a little like Italy's or France's, with Chelsea (24 points behind), Tottenham (25), Arsenal (28) and Man United (29) nowhere near the pace.

What Man City continue to achieve under Guardiola is nothing short of spectacular.

The Citizens can become the first English side in the history of men’s football to complete the domestic treble, if they expectedly lift the Premier League on Sunday and beat Watford in the FA Cup final.

In the process, Guardiola will have won everything there is to win in England in just three seasons – all with a brand of football that is incredible to watch.

However, this is exactly what is expected of a team with arguably the best manager in the world, some of the best players in the world and one of the biggest financial backings in the world – especially when they have been in control of the title race since March.

For Guardiola to suggest otherwise is, quite simply, absurd.