The two Manchester clubs are setting the Premier League pace while down the road on Merseyside Liverpool and Everton struggle to get their seasons going
BARELY a month after the big kick off and already we are staring at the biggest certainty of the season.
No, not Manchester City’s Etihad clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday, although in the land of foregone conclusions, that looks as big as you’ll ever get.
More the subject of this weekend’s football phone-ins and forums, should we witness another dose of Merseyside misery – at Anfield in particular.
Both Liverpool and Everton went into the campaign with, as the song goes, more hope in their hearts than they have for years.
Five games in and they’re starting to look at the fixture list with all the relish of a turkey farm’s inhabitants as the festive period approaches.
And just to make matters worse, all that while their fiercest rivals from down the East Lancs Road are slugging it out in an all-Manchester battle at the top.
When Jurgen Klopp was appointed just shy of two years ago, it was to such fanfare you half expected them to present him with gold, frankincense and myrrh at his unveiling ceremony.
The new Shankly, they cried. The man to return us to our “rightful” place at the top. And in terms of getting into the Champions League again, I suppose it’s mission accomplished.
But the Messiah who’ll deliver the title? Well already the murmurs are starting from the more fickle Kop fans.
Every week another embarrassing defensive clanger. You’ve more chance of seeing a clean sheet on a gastroenteritis ward than in that Liverpool backline.
And a manager who now has a worse record than Brendan Rodgers over the same period. Worse, too, than David Moyes at Old Trafford, as United fans gleefully point out.
No wins in four, out of the EFL Cup at Leicester, and a return trip there on Saturday. Which is where that foregone conclusion comes in.
For if Liverpool do indeed slip up at the King Power for the second time in a week, you can bet your mortgage on what the call will be…
The cries of “bring back Rafa,” from the Anfield acolytes who’ve never really got over Benitez’ departure will be deafening.
The same manager who presided over the club nearly going to the wall not too long ago, incidentally.
Funny old game? Not for Liverpool – or indeed their Everton neighbours, who kicked off thinking Ronald Koeman’s £140m summer spend would edge them closer to the top four.
Well after last week’s latest surrender, a 4-0 beating at Old Trafford, they now sit in the bottom three and Koeman insists they can only expect “the same as last season.”
In other words seventh – that’ll go down well with major investor Farhad Moshiri, whose millions have bankrolled a new-look Everton which still lacks a proven goalscorer.
It would be bad enough on Merseyside with that alone. Yet when those pesky Mancs are edging clear,it becomes almost intolerable.
Well they’d better get used to it, because it’s hard to see anything other than a shoot-out between old foes Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola for the title this season.
Both of them free scoring, both of them rolling over all in their way
And both of them nailed on to do so for the next few months.
When all four clubs chose their manager, each thought they finally had the right man to rule the realm.
In Manchester they may well be right. In Liverpool in increasingly looks like a remake of the Emperor’s New Clothes.