Back in July Liverpool fans were full of optimism. They had just witnessed their team beat champions Manchester City in the Charity Shield final 3-1.
Their new summer arrival Darwin Nunez scored on his debut while at the other end of the pitch City’s new attacker Erling Haaland squandered several glorious opportunities.
Many thought that this was a taste of things to come and that it would be Liverpool’s season judging by the way Nunez - who cost £64 million but whose fee could rise to a club record £85 million – seemed to settle in his new surroundings.
But now, that sunny day at Wembley must feel very far away for the Merseysiders. We are in October and Liverpool find themselves in mid table in the Premier League while City and Haaland in particular are firing on all cylinders.
The two will clash tomorrow (Sunday) in what is going to be an epic battle. It is a game Jurgen Klopp knows his Liverpool side cannot afford to lose. They are already 14 points off top spot and another defeat would likely end their title challenge.
Haaland, who struggled on his debut at Wembley, has now scored 20 goals in all competitions while Nunez who looked a fine replacement for Sadio Mane only has 4 in 10 and has looked woeful since his first appearance. A red card against Crystal Palace on his home debut did not help matters.
That tells the whole story of the way the season is going for the two teams so far. Haaland has been breaking records almost by the week and with him at the top of his game right now Liverpool fans will be feeling very anxious about tomorrow’s Anfield clash. Sure, they go into the game on the back of a 7-1 thrashing of Rangers at Ibrox which has put them in clear sight of the Champions League round of 16. But taking on City will be a totally different challenge.
Pep Guardiola’s side have picked up momentum as the season has progressed while the Reds have largely gone backwards. According to Opta, their shots per game in the league is down from 19.2 last season to 17.5 this term, while their expected goals per game has also dropped, from 2.6 to 1.8. An unsettled front line has crushed their ability to create big chances this season - the team has 1.5 per match on average. The loss of key players, the arrival of new faces and a drop in form for the stars who remain are all contributing factors.
At the back things are not well either with the lack of form of Trent Alexander-Arnold their biggest concern while Virgil van Dijk is not the imposing figure he once was. Liverpool conceded 26 goals in the league in all of 2021-22 and have let in 12 already in 2022-23.
On the other hand, City are flying. Guardiola has got them playing with pace and power and the contrast between them and Liverpool is huge. It is exemplified by the total opposite campaigns of their flagship strikers.
Haaland has pace, strength, intelligence and ruthless finishing ability. The 22-year-old Norwegian has already bagged 15 goals in 9 Premier League games. Most top strikers would be delighted with that many come the end of the season in May. But, we are only in October. This could get ugly for Klopp and co.