Liverpool and Man City are unquestionably among the best teams in England, consistently finishing at the very upper end of the table in recent times. Much of the reason they have been so competitive in recent years is thanks to their respective managers. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are considered to have some of the best minds in world football and their methods have reaped so much success and plenty of admirers too.
Given that both are often tipped as title contenders ahead of a Premier League season, it is well worth asking the question, which team has the better record? Previous stats and figures are not always reliable predictors of future trends of course but it is interesting to know which side has the long-term upper-hand.
Average League Position
There are a few ways of trying to determine which club has a superior Premier League record. Our first attempt involves looking at final league standings ever since the inception of the Premier League in 1992. It may be very hard to believe now but City were actually relegated from the English top-flight in 1996 and they dropped down another division two years after that. Two successive promotions followed this but they were then immediately relegated, spending another year in the Championship before bouncing right back. This means the Citizens have spent a total of five years outside of the Premier League.
|Season||Man City Position||Liverpool Position||Higher Team?|
When looking historically, there is little contest in terms of average league position as Liverpool’s Premier League record is significantly superior. Not only have they managed to stay in the league since its creation but their average league position is fourth. By contrast, City, even with all their most recent success, have averaged a seventh-placed finish. This number is on the rise, mind you, as they have been so much stronger the past decade.
The only trouble when looking at league position is that it can give an inconsistent measure of how far apart two teams are in any given year. In the 2020/21 season, only two places separated Liverpool and Man City yet they were 19 points from one another. By contrast, the 2015/16 season saw the two clubs four places apart yet there was only six points between them this time. Due to this, it can be useful to look at the average number of points as this gives us a more precise understanding of how a team has performed.
When looking at this measure, rather unsurprisingly, Liverpool stand fairly comfortably ahead, just as they do with the average league position. By the end of the 2020/21 season, the Merseysiders had amassed an average points tally of 69.6 points. The Citizens, on the other hand, have averaged 64.1 during all their years in the rebranded top-flight. It would take City five consecutive years of 98-point totals to better Liverpool’s average but you have to factor in that the Reds are very likely to improve their own number over such a time period.
When involved in a competitive title race, it is often performances against the main challenger, or challengers, that ultimately seals a team’s fate. These matches are often called six-pointers for a reason and no matter when they occur during the season, they can have a huge impact on how a title race plays out. Who generally prospers when it is Man City versus Liverpool though? Given the Citizen’s struggles during the earlier Premier League years, Liverpool have won more than they have lost but a stalemate has also been a surprisingly common outcome of this clash.
|Result||Number of Instances|
|Man City Win||11|
|Total League Matches (as of March 2022)||49|
Where the fixture is played has long had a big impact on the final result in matches involving these two teams. From the data above, of the 31 encounters that did not end up as a draw, 25 of them were won by the team playing at home. Only on six occasions has the away team walked with all three points.
Some football fans will tell you that the only measure of league success is the number of titles won. Clubs cannot get a prize for the highest average position or most points accumulated over an x-year period so for them, it is entirely irrelevant. It is a rather more black and white way of looking at league success but it does have some merits.
Most fans would take sporadic league wins over consistently finishing close but not quite getting over the line. Football is a game of glory after all and the team that celebrates the most is always the one that lifts the title. With this in mind, let us focus on the title wins accumulated by both Man City and Liverpool in the Premier League era.
Man City Title Wins – 5
Years Won – 2011/12, 2013/14, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2020/21
Prior to the Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008, a league win looked completely out of the question for Man City, at least in the top flight. Their highest Premier League finish before this point had been eighth and they were without a top-flight league title since 1968. The huge investment the club received following the change in ownership though quickly made City one of the most competitive teams in the country. After breaking into the top four for the first time in 2010/11, they went on to win their first Premier League title the following year.
A range of excellent (and often expensive) signings made this possible. Sergio Aguero who made a €45m switch from Atletico Madrid, scored 23 goals as he helped guide City to first place in 2011/12. None of these goals was more important than his last either as the Argentine fired in a 94th-minute winner against QPR on the final day of the season, snatching the title away from rivals Manchester United.
That league triumph came under boss Roberto Mancini but it is under Pep Guardiola that City have enjoyed the most success. The Spaniard took over in July 2016 and in his first five seasons in charge, he claimed three league titles (and five domestic cups).
While 2011/12 title win was the most dramatic, City’s triumph in 2017/18 was easily the most emphatic. Amassing a record-breaking 100 points through 32 wins and 4 draws, Guardiola’s men broke several other Premier League records too in the process such as the most goals (109), the best goal difference (+79) and the most consecutive victories (18). They were so strong that season in fact that bookmaker Betfred paid out on all bets for them to win the league in December.
Liverpool Title Wins – 1
Years Won – 2019/20
Since the foundation of the Premier League, Liverpool have had few issues collecting silverware. Whether it be the Champions League, UEFA Cup, League Cup or FA Cup, the Reds have claimed all of them on at least one occasion in the 21st century. The one trophy that they could never seem to get their hands on though was the Premier League title. Given that they clinched eight league championships in the 14 years prior to the Premier League’s foundation, it seemed bizarre that their fortunes suddenly shifted so dramatically for the worse.
That is precisely what happened though with Liverpool’s domestic glory abruptly ending when the top teams in England decided to break away from the Football League. Try as they might, a league title would not come their way, not even during the 2013/14 season in which they led the table by three points with as many games left to go. Their long wait did eventually come to an end in 2019/20 though and they were exceptional value for it too, collecting 99 points during a season temporarily halted due to the global health crisis.
There had been some mummers, perhaps only from hopeful Everton and Manchester United fans, that the season might have to be abandoned completely, as it was in some other leagues. Fortunately for the Reds, who were comfortable clear at the top of the table, the Premier League simply opted to resume the league when government rules allowed. From this point on the outcome was never in doubt and oh how the Liverpool fans savoured this long-awaited moment!
Title Battles – Man City v Liverpool
In the case of the 2019/20 season, although Liverpool won the league and City finished as runners-up, there was no real contest for the title. Eighteen points separated the two teams once they had played all 38 matches and it was not as though City suffered an awful late slump in the final few matches either. The end result of this campaign was ultimately known months in advance but on other occasions, Liverpool and Man City have had to fight tooth and nail against each other.
The was the first time that Liverpool and Man City were involved in a tense battle for the Premier League title. Many of you may well remember this, for different reasons, as the year of Steven Gerrard’s infamous ‘we do not let this slip’ speech which was used to rally his teammates after narrowly beating Norwich. The infamy comes from the fact that a week later, versus Chelsea, the Liverpool skipper slipped when on the ball and gifted the Blues the opening goal. In their desperate efforts to pull a goal back, the Merseyside outfit were caught out on the break in the dying moments, handing Chelsea a somewhat surprising 2-0 victory.
This result ended an 11-game winning streak for Brendan Rodgers’ side and meant that their destiny was out of their hands as the table looked as follows:
|Position||Club||Games Played||Points||Goal Difference|
When winning their game in hand against Everton shortly after, City sat top of the table on goal difference. With no realistic chance of making up the nine-goal deficit across two matches, Liverpool had to hope that City dropped points at home to Villa or West Ham while claiming maximum points themselves. This plan failed immediately though with the Reds throwing away a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace in the final 12 minutes of the match. This draw made the unlikely seem near impossible now given the relative ease of City’s two remaining fixtures.
With the Manchester side in full control now, they did not pass up the opportunity as they resoundingly beat Villa 4-0 and then West Ham 2-0 the following week. After these results, the top of the league ended up looking like this:
|Position||Club||Games Played||Points||Goal Difference|
There was a bit of a wait before Liverpool and City went at it again but what a truly monumental battle this one was. Neither side can be accused of ‘bottling it’ here as they both finished the season so strongly. Liverpool spent the last 17 matches of the campaign unbeaten while City strung together a 14-match winning run. Anything less for City would not have been enough either as they only won the season by a solitary point.
In the end, Liverpool ended up drawing one too many matches but they were ridiculously hard to beat with their sole loss coming at the hands of Man City. They pushed their title rivals all the way in the final few weeks too, not once turning down the pressure. With nine matches of the season to go here is what the table looked like:
|Position||Club||Games Played||Points||Goal Difference|
It then became a case of ‘whatever you can do, I can do better’ as both teams won all remaining matches. If Liverpool secured three points first, City would follow. If City grabbed the win, Liverpool would hold their nerve when they were next up. Both sides suffered some nervy moments along the way mind you. Away at Newcastle, the third last game of the season, Liverpool needed an 86th-minute goal from substitute Divock Origi to secure three points. The following weekend, the reigning title holders required inspiration from an even unlikelier source, captain Vincent Kompany. With 20 minutes to go and the deadlock not broken, the Belgian defender let fly from 25 yards, sending the ball into the top corner of the net. For many, this truly felt like a title-winning goal and it proved to be just that.
This is yet another title race that looks set to go right down to the wire. For a time, it did look as though City might just have edged too far ahead but an extremely rare home defeat to Tottenham and a goalless draw with Crystal Palace put Liverpool back within touching distance. With Jurgen Klopp’s side able to win their game in hand, they moved within one point of top spot and still had a match versus City remaining. At the time if writing, there’s all to play for… who’s your money on?