Tale of Two Cities

By , Posted on 11th April 2012 - Posted in: Football News

So it looks like title number twenty for the red side of Manchester, the blue half having blinked first in the run-in. The promise of a tumultuous derby match on April 30th is dribbling away. It may be all done and dusted by then and barring a turnaround of unprecedented proportions United will have retained their crown by the end of the month. The worst case scenario for City fans would be seeing United clinch the trophy at the Etihad.

The knives will be out for City manager Roberto Mancini. It seems a ridiculous state of affairs, that on the back of a continuing curve of improvement in league position and points total, he will likely as not be relieved of his duties. However, given the position his team was in just a few short weeks ago, not to mention the money spend on assembling such a generous squad, his days are surely numbered.

The national dominance of Manchester is all a far cry from unfolding events thirty-five miles west along the M62 in Liverpool.

Few Liverpool supporters could ever have lived through such a contrasting season of highs and utter dross as this one. Their team has won the Carling Cup and this coming weekend face a semi-final against derby rivals Everton at Wembley. Success in the Carling Cup saw them record victories over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Manchester City at the Etihad and fellow Premiership side Stoke City while their run to the FA Cup semi-final has seen them overcome Manchester United at Anfield.

In the Premier League the Reds have also recorded wins at Stamford Bridge and against Arsenal at the Emirates. But that’s as good as it’s been for Liverpool. Only five home league wins tells its own story and at the time of writing the club lies eighth in the table, with qualification for next season’s Champions League a virtual impossibility. Throw in the appalling mess that was the Luis Suarez affair, the continuing fall out over the money spent on Andy Carroll and a current run of form that has seen them lose eight times this calendar year already and you can see why there’s a lot of disquiet about the place.

I wrote earlier in the season how success in the domestic cups would paper over a lot of cracks at Anfield. Now, I’m not so sure. So poor has been their league form that a whole forest of trees would need to be felled to provide enough paper. And here’s a worrying question for all Liverpool fans: when was the last time a draw at home to Aston Villa was hailed as a result that ‘stopped the rot’? That’s what happened last weekend, and though the team go into Saturday’s semi on the back of a victory at Blackburn’s Ewood Park they also go into the fixture in the knowledge that Everton sit one point above them in the league table.

Everton may yet view the season’s outcome with more pleasure than their illustrious neighbours. Victory on Saturday will be a triumph of prudence and sound management. Manager David Moyes has toiled for ten years with barely enough cash to make ends meet. Yet seventh place in the table and a run to Wembley may be the height of the Toffees’ aspirations. Unless the club finds a rich buyer fortunes don’t look set to change any time soon.

The weekend’s cup tie has been put back a day as Liverpool don’t fulfill any fixtures on April 15th as an ongoing mark of respect for those who died in the Hillsborough disaster. It seems that in many ways the club are still held in check by the awful events of that day. Even the re-appointment of Dalglish as manager suggests hearts and minds at Anfield are still firmly entrenched in 1989. For both Merseyside teams those halcyon days of the mid-to-late 1980s, when the city of Liverpool was the throbbing heartbeat of English football, seem further away than ever. The success of neighbouring Manchester is only making things worse.

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