Liverpool and Man City are enjoying the pressure of the title race and making standing on the tail “seem easy”, says Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s side look destined to remain almost neck and neck until the very end of the Premier League season for the second time in four years with both sides winning on Saturday, to leave City one point clear. advance in the standings with four games remaining.
Both teams rested players due to their Champions League semi-final commitments, but after a Mo Salah-less Liverpool won 1-0 at Newcastle in the midday kick-off, Manchester City saw a Leeds side unbeaten in five games with a 4-0 win at Elland Road to take them back to the top of the table, despite making five changes from their game against Real Madrid in midweek.
Neville told the Podcast by Gary Neville both teams had turned the title race from the ‘fights’ of his time as a player at Manchester United into a spectacle both seem to be enjoying, with growing pressure to follow their never-showing title rival – and the prospect of a faultless end of the season a real possibility.
He said: “What City did tonight which is hugely impressive but they make it look easy is when we were up against the team that was going for a title and they were playing before us, we always wanted to play first. .
“When Liverpool went away and did what they did at lunchtime today at Newcastle, after Villarreal in midweek and all the games they’ve had recently, you think that takes the pressure at City, but you never really feel like those two teams feel that pressure.
“It’s because of their dominance, because of their class, because of their composure, because of their pace. Everything they have. They just seem to be in control, they seem to enjoy it.
“When we were going through those fights with Arsenal, or Chelsea or Blackburn in the mid-90s, it always looked like a fight. coming back and then there were hugs at the end and it’s a very pleasant and respectful run-in.
“But you can’t deny the excellence of these two clubs and these two teams at the moment because it’s a standard we’ve never seen before in terms of consistency at the end of the season.
“You could say that in other seasons the teams have made this kind of journey towards the end, but these teams are in the Champions League, they are in the FA Cup. They are in the Carabao Cup, they play tons of games and I still do.”
“Klopp & Pep have strengthened their teams by touring”
Neville felt Klopp and Guardiola took a chance on making changes for Saturday’s Premier League games – but says coming out unscathed will be of huge benefit to both teams in the remaining fixtures this season, fringe players feeling more confident and ready to make an impact off the bench in pivotal moments.
“What Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are doing today is basically making the team stronger,” Neville said. “You hear managers say ‘I have a great team’, but do you have the guts and courage to really use that team in the big games where you have to win?
“Where you know that if you don’t win there’s a big consequence, or you’re probably going to lose a league title, or you’re going to be knocked out of a European Cup competition. So just do it and come then come out and win – you empowered everyone.
“You’ve made everyone feel part of it, and the strength of this team and everyone’s commitment means you’re starting to blend in with the feeling every three days, you know that everything the world had a match, no one feels like there is a First Eleven.
“It’s a real mistake to name your first XI and then always play that first XI in modern football, if you’re going to go for three and four trophies because you’re going to need those five and six and seven on the bench. And so to keep them included so they feel part of it, bring them onto the pitch if you can, even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes at the end.
“It’s really essential that everyone feels proud to be part of the team, because it is absolutely certain that there will be a game that will surprise you, and you will need two or three substitutes to arrive and save that. could be a defensive sub, it could also be an offensive sub more often than not.
“We had it in the Champions League final, where two substitutes came off the bench and won it for us. Liverpool have that in them, Manchester City have that in them, but you have to keep those players fit. , confident, fit, in part, full of energy Make them feel like they’re contributing to success, and it’s not just a token gesture where you’re being played in the kind of weak games.
Was it a risk to rest Salah & De Bruyne?
“It’s the first time Jurgen Klopp has left Mo Salah in what seems like an absolute age, but he must have felt it was a game he could leave him out of. Why he thought that, we don’t know. I don’t know. But when I saw that, I thought, ‘Okay, what message does that send to the rest of the Liverpool players?’
“I just thought because he played Salah in every game, the game he leaves Salah in, I thought it would be a risk because it says something to the rest of the players. I just thought that there was a risk there when i saw the team i thought it was a test for the other players because they knew this guy was going to come back straight against villarreal they knew he was the number 1. So can we move on without him?
“So those Liverpool players are doing today without him, and City are doing without De Bruyne, and I think they’re the two best players – I think Van Dijk is rivaling Salah in terms of importance – but those are the two star players To get through these games without their two star players, the rest of the team will feel like a million bucks, and you’ve rested your two best players.