Football

‘I expect it to get close’ – Gary Neville gives Liverpool and Chelsea hope of catching Premier League leaders Manchester City


Gary Neville says Liverpool and Chelsea can put pressure on Premier League title favourites Manchester City (Picture: Sky Sports)

Gary Neville has given Liverpool and Chelsea hope of catching runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City and says he ‘expects’ the title race to ‘get close’ towards the end of the season.

Defending champions City are nine points clear at the top of the table ahead of the mid-season winter break, having won 18 of their 23 matches this term and 12 in a row before Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.

While Pep Guardiola’s side have enjoyed a brilliant run over the past two months, both Liverpool and Chelsea dropped points over the festive period, with the Reds losing to Leicester City and the Blues failing to beat the likes of Brighton and Everton.

Given Manchester City’s dominance and the club’s success in recent years, many pundits have declared the title race over with four months of the season still to play, but Neville believes there could yet be a twist.

‘I think Liverpool are doing really well without two of their main players [Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane],’ Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.

‘Things like [City’s 1-1 draw at Southampton] give a little bit of encouragement. City are a machine and you don’t expect them to make a lot of mistakes – but they could, and Liverpool and Chelsea have got to believe that.

‘I’m not that disappointed in Liverpool because I think they have to be at full pelt all the time to get to City just because they haven’t got the squad that City have got.

Pep Guardiola’s side are hoping to keep their title rivals at bay (Picture: Getty)

‘But I do think Chelsea have [the squad] and I expect it to get close. I don’t expect this runaway league; five weeks ago, we expected this three-horse race and we’ve almost been pushed into a feeling that City have won it.

‘I don’t think we have got the three-horse race back this weekend through the fact that Chelsea and Liverpool have won and City have drawn, but I don’t think we are going to have that runaway 20-point championship that we have had sometimes with City.

‘It can happen. Liverpool have got it in them if they can keep that 11 together and get Sadio Mane and Mo Salah back flying, but this squad that Chelsea have got, if they can get Lukaku absolutely buzzing, bashing people around, backing into them and rolling them like he did in that last half-an-hour [in the 2-0 defeat of Tottenham], and starting to put the ball in the back of the net – there’s so many inventive players you could play around him – so if they can just hit form between them, they can play three games a week because they can change two players every game and not really have a dip.

‘Whether it’s Pulisic and Werner or Ziyech and Mount, you don’t see a massive dip in terms of quality when one plays or the other.

‘If Thomas Tuchel can keep them all happy, I think they can have a really strong finish to the season, I really do.

‘I think the quality in the Premier League this season is outstanding and it doesn’t deserve to have someone winning it by 15 points.’

With Manchester City’s winning run ended by Southampton on Saturday, it was imperative that Liverpool and Chelsea took advantage and they both managed to close the gap with victories over Crystal Palace and Tottenham respectively.

Asked if his Liverpool side sent a message to City with their 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park, Jurgen Klopp said: ‘No. The distance is too far to talk about it but we don’t have to.

‘We just need to win football matches. We will see what happens in the final few months.’

Blues manager Thomas Tuchel also played down Chelsea’s title chances after the 2-0 win against Spurs at Stamford Bridge.

‘The table is the table, it is our responsibility to prove ourselves every third day and now we have a break and it was important to go into this break with a performance we want,’ he said.

‘We needed this but needed also to do things better. The guys are very tired because it was a long run for us.’

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