Liverpool home form is Manchester City Kryptonite despite record run
Several unbeaten runs could end on Sunday when Liverpool face Manchester City. The runaway league leaders haven't lost in England all season, while Liverpool haven't lost a match anywhere for nearly three months.
The Reds have benefitted recently from other top-six clashes, when sides they're contesting with for Europe inevitably drop points. Now those clubs will be watching Anfield closely this weekend, not publicly admitting City are beyond reach but privately hoping they'll beat their closest, more logical rivals.
Ignoring City, eight points separate the next five teams. It's an odd situation, but hardly unique. Twenty-nine years ago, a Liverpool team was strolling away with the title but even they -- also unbeaten by this stage -- had drawn five league games, not the two City have dropped points in.
This makes many assume the Reds have their work cut out on Sunday but they have one distinct advantage: they will be playing at Anfield.
Some may scoff; after all, most would regard Old Trafford as a bigger test, but in recent seasons City have had a number of victories away to Manchester United. They may currently be playing like supermen, but for many years it's as though Liverpool's ground was made of kryptonite for them.
Back when the Reds ruled English football and City lurched from one division to another, such a poor record was hardly a phenomenon.
Once they received their financial injection from their owners in 2008, they'd have surely expected to turn the tables on their former tormentors. Not a bit of it. If anything, their record's worse.
Liverpool have lost at home to Manchester City twice in the last 55 years, ever since Bill Shankly dragged the Reds out of the Second Division toward a glittering future. It's an astonishing record. The last time they managed a win was in 2003, so that's another unbeaten record Liverpool want to protect.
Under the expert guidance of Pep Guardiola, they surely have their greatest chance of beating the jinx. Outsiders cry foul about their massive investment in players over the years, but that studiously overlooks how many great players they've chosen -- ones that were always within the price range of other big clubs. Some, like Kevin De Bruyne, already played at a big club but were somehow cast aside.
It also ignores Guardiola's gifts, especially after a summer when their major transfer outlay was on full-backs. Most experts scratched their heads at the time, but City proved everyone wrong with a vengeance.
Liverpool fans often yearn for different owners, perhaps in the City mould in which money is no object. Knowing just who to buy would still be the thorniest issue.
Traditionalists want to see if there genuinely is a glass ceiling at Anfield, where everyone from owners to supporters operates at maximum efficiency but the club still can't get to the very top. That hasn't been the case at Liverpool for some time; one key component always lets them down at some stage.
At the moment, things are going well for Jurgen Klopp and his squad, but this will be the first match since Philippe Coutinho moved to Barcelona. It's a big decision to take in the middle of a season and the reaction to a bad result on Sunday could be seismic.
There's already clamour for a new signing or two to compensate for losing the Brazilian, one which might grow louder despite City being favourites to win anyway. It won't be forgotten that Coutinho was often a thorn in City's side, scoring five goals against them during his time in England.
It will also be a major test for new defender Virgil van Dijk. Looking good against an Everton side barely venturing forward is one thing. Holding a defence together against the best team in England is quite another.
Last season's clash was a tense 1-0 win for the Reds, from an early goal by Georginio Wijnaldum. Guardiola's men had most of the second-half possession but couldn't break through. Perhaps Anfield was working its malevolent magic that day, too?
It's hard to judge the two sides from their last encounter, the 5-0 defeat at the Etihad in September. The margin of victory was undoubtedly increased by Sadio Mane's red card after 30 minutes, but Liverpool were already losing by that stage.
There have been one or two comparative stumbles for City recently that give Liverpool hope. A 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, going a goal behind to Burnley and a scrappy win against Bristol City. They do have tremendous resilience, often scoring late goals; Liverpool have an unerring habit of conceding them. That doesn't bode well for the home side. Their attacking players will have to be in scintillating form to stand any chance of victory.
Klopp will want to send out a message that it's business as usual for a Liverpool team that's forgotten how to lose almost as much as their opponents. Something's got to give.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.