Brendan Rodgers’ Reds currently sit top of the table on 74 points with five games left to play, while Manuel Pellegrini’s Citizens arrive with 70 points and seven games left to play.
The two title rivals have both been in sensational form this term, scoring an astonishing 174 goals between them in the league, and while the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks, Liverpool and City have ramped up their challenge to full throttle.
However, while I have the utmost respect for what Pellegrini has achieved under pressure this season, most notably because of the huge amount of money spent this summer on new recruits, plaudits must go to Rodgers and Liverpool owner John W Henry for their commitment to football built on integrity first and foremost.
I am in no way suggesting Liverpool haven’t spent any money on players – over the last five years, the club has expended (in some instances quite unwisely) £83.2 million in the transfer market but the manager who arrived from Swansea in the summer of 2012 had a lot of reparation to work on to offload the likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Alberto Aquillani, and Charlie Adam, who had been brought in for over-the-odds figures to no avail by previous managers at Anfield.
Rodgers has incurred a loss for the club in the transfer market of £61.6 million since he arrived. But much of the losses can be attributed to the heavily reduced fees he sold the under-performing players for.
He has achieved quite incredible value for money on the likes of Philippe Coutinho (£8.5 million), Daniel Sturridge (£12 million), Joe Allen (£15 million), and Simon Mignolet (£10 million). In fact Mamadou Sakho is the only signing Rodgers has spent more than £15 million on since he arrived.
Meanwhile, he has managed to get some of the players already on the books at Anfield playing like new star signings.
Jordan Henderson is the most notable example, struggling to replicate his performance level from Sunderland since h moved the England youngster is now playing like a near-complete midfielder.
Luis Suarez has always been a threat, but he has been a machine this season – simply unstoppable – and easily the soon-to-be Player of the Year working under the soon-to-be Manager of the Year, whether the Reds win the title or not.
In contrast, Pellegrini was given £103.2 million to spent on in-comings this summer. He incurred at loss at the Etihad of £89.8 million – and that is on top of the net spend of £277.3 million in the last five years. The signings of Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, and Martin Demichelis have simply added more strength in depth to the Citizens who already boast world-class players in almost every single position on the pitch.
I am not taking anything away from the job Pellegrini is doing and has done at the Etihad – the money spent means he is under more pressure and he has done remarkably well under that weight of expectation – but the way Liverpool have wiped the floor with teams this season home and away, and the style in which they have attacked every game as a unit, well-organized and playing for each other, has given the fans on the Kop back the energy and vitality missing since the early era of Rafael Benitez.
It has also given Steven Gerrard a renewed challenge and a sense of possibility, playing in a different role that suits him ideally at this stage of his career.
If Liverpool beat Manchester City on Sunday it will be a victory for football against the commercial interests of the big-spending City and Chelsea in the Premier League and PSG and Monaco abroad.
It will be a victory for the integrity of the game over the purchasing of success on the pitch, in the trophy cabinet and on the stock market.
Rodgers has created and shaped and grown and sculpted his team out of craft and vision and pragmatism and, with all due respect to Pellegrini who is a fine coach and a class act, City have bought in top stars on top wages for big fees and synthesized success. On Sunday, we find out which approach works best.