Liverpool’s minds or Man City’s legs: which will falter first in this high-pressure Premier League title race?

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Perhaps it is nothing more than a coincidence that Manchester City face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this weekend on the same day that Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield in what promises to be a compelling double-header in the Premier League title race. After all, every team has to play each other at some point during a league season, yet it seems as though somebody in the fixtures department is having fun at Liverpool’s expense by throwing up another unwanted reminder of what happened the last time they met Chelsea with the title on the nike nfl jerseys paypal

Back in April 2014, Demba Ba’s goal at Anfield — following Steven Gerrard’s slip and crucial loss of the ball — proved to be the decisive moment in that season’s title race with City. Liverpool lost 2-0 that day and, hours later, City won 2-0 at Palace to reclaim the initiative and ensure that their destiny was once again in their own hands. Manuel Pellegrini’s team won their next three games to win the title and leave Liverpool — and Gerrard — haunted by that unforgettable slip against Chelsea.
But does what happened five years ago really matter in this year’s title race? Not one player from Liverpool’s starting outfielders that day remains at Anfield while only Sergio Aguero, of the City side at Palace in 2014, is likely to be involved this weekend. These might be different times and different players but when it comes to winning a title, the ghosts of the past and fear of what might happen always become an issue at this stage of the race.7

Some managers and teams deal with it better than others. Rio Ferdinand, who won six Premier League titles with Manchester United, recalled in his book, #2Sides, how Sir Alex Ferguson would always use deflection to protect his players from outside scrutiny if results went wrong.

“If anything did go wrong, he always took the stress off us by creating an argument in the media or picking a fight somewhere with someone,” Ferdinand said. “It distracted attention from what had gone wrong on the pitch.”

Ferguson used to call it “squeaky-bum time,” an odd phrase to describe the tension and pressure that applies itself when the slightest mistake can have the biggest implications. Players are told to avoid reading newspapers by their managers as it might spare them the damaging negativity that comes after points are dropped, while so-called “mind games” are played out in interviews before and after games.

When Newcastle threw away a 12-point lead and finished second to United in 1995-96, Ferguson’s use of the post-match interview — his version of “mind games” — was cited as being the spark which lit the fuse when Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan exploded with his “I would love it if we beat them!” rant after a victory at Leeds. Keegan remembers it differently, of course, insisting in his autobiography that the drip-drip effect of conceding late goals was the real reason for his team’s stumble.