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February 28, 2021

My News on Point

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Paul Merson believes Man City and Liverpool will fight for the title next season (Picture: Sky Sports)

Paul Merson rates Manchester City and Liverpool as joint-favourites to win the Premier League next season.

Pep Guardiola’s City are in pole position to win the title this season, winning 15 consecutive matches in all competitions to storm seven points clear of second-placed Manchester United with a game in hand.

Jurgen Klopp admitted on Saturday that Liverpool’s title defence was over, with the Reds losing their last three matches to slip 13 points behind Manchester City.

Former Arsenal and England star Merson does not believe Liverpool’s struggles will extend to next season, however, and says they will be a different proposition when the injured Virgil van Dijk returns.

‘Liverpool will be back, 100 per cent. As soon as Van Dijk is back, this is a different team,’ Merson told Sky Sports.

‘I have no doubt about that. I still think next season, they will be the team to beat. If everyone is back fit, it’s 50-50 for me, heads or tails with Manchester City for the title.

‘It’s the biggest points drop, but you have to remember the figures they were putting up last season. They were out of this world.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (Picture: Getty)

‘I know they haven’t been great, and they’ve had a load of injuries, but at half-time against Man City at home they were still in the title race, which I think is a phenomenal feat given the players they’ve had out.

‘If you asked us how Liverpool were going to start each week last season, we’d get the starting XI right nine times out of 10. It picked itself, it was such a machine. They suffocated teams.

‘When you gave players coming in who haven’t played a lot of football, it’s hard to play that tempo. If one switches off, you are punished.’

Van Dijk only played five Premier League matches this season before his campaign was ended by an injury sustained in the Merseyside derby draw with Everton.

Merson added: ‘When Van Dijk is in the team, Liverpool are playing on the halfway line. They win the ball back 25 yards out, then it’s one pass and they score.

‘Now they’ve playing with a central midfielder at centre-back and they’re playing in their own half. This year I don’t think they’ve had a lot of luck at all.

‘There is a drop in intensity this season, and that’s because of the players coming in.

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‘The goalkeeper is, for me, the best in the world. Look at him now. There’s no trust at all in the back four, and he’s playing on a knife edge. It’s all because of Van Dijk.

‘Why are Man City succeeding at the moment? They have defenders playing out of their skin.

‘Nobody wins anything without a good defence, and at the moment Liverpool’s defence is nowhere near the level they were at last year.’

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