Manchester City always have a talismanic figure that helps drag them over the line, but do Liverpool now have the same in Darwin Nunez?


WHAT’S keeping you up at night?

House prices and rental markets? Failing councils? Donald Trump? How about Liverpool’s defensive line against Sparta Prague last night?

How did you sleep thinking about Ibrahima Konate’s hamstring or Xabi Alonso’s true credentials as a manager at the very highest level?

I’ve got one we can all roundly agree on: Phil Foden.

Manchester City’s one of their own, currently on a solo crusade to elevate them to another unprecedented cup treble.

City’s pacesetting at this time of year is eye-rolling levels of incessant. They relentlessly win under any kind of pressure come the turn of the year. Frustratingly, they never seem to have the injury woes of others.

It got me thinking of the why. More importantly, the how they are able to be so flawless in these situations. It led me to Foden and those he has followed.

This season, he’s on 11 league goals and seven assists, with 18 goals and 10 assists across all competitions. He’s massively overperforming league statistics around xG (expected goals) and open play xG assisted, profiling in the high 80th percentile for both.

Can Darwin Nunez Be The Man To Drag Liverpool Over The Line?

You could pass this off as good form at the wrong time from a Liverpool perspective. Yet it’s impossible to deny that this is an annoying habit of City’s.

Last season belonged to Kevin De Bruyne’s ridiculous 31 assists. The season before, Ilkay Gundogan (99th percentile for xG buildup) put his foot on the gas post-January to ensure City kept Liverpool at bay — just.

This is all without the honourable mentions to players like Rodri, Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland. Their embarrassment of riches is something we can all bemoan and debate as much as the affront shown when someone like Trent Alexander-Arnold dares to mention it.

The question is whether Liverpool need someone similar to drag them past a gruelling finish line, or whether that person already exists.

If the calendar year of 2019 belonged to Sadio Mane, where else can The Reds point to one inspirational figure who elevated themselves beyond an already astounding level of performance to ensure glory?

The question of whether we’d want that after years of Steven Gerrard brilliance padded out with pockets of averageness is valid. Yet the new format for champions seems to be less one-man-band and more rotational frontmen.

The obvious candidate for the mantle right now would be Virgil van Dijk, who has been resilient and near-perfect all season. More recently, Alexis Mac Allister has the look of a man who wants every trophy available.

On last night’s box-office viewing, you just wonder whether Darwin Nunez could hold a certain key. His brace in Prague has taken him to nine goals since the turn of the year. He will represent one of the biggest headaches to Pep Guardiola’s approach on Sunday.

Can Darwin Nunez Be The Man To Drag Liverpool Over The Line?

The biggest challenge will be maintaining fitness and rhythm. Nunez hasn’t been without niggles and setbacks this season. The hope now is that he can match confidence in front of goal with a prolonged run in the team.

This once again points to Liverpool’s ability to boast attacking firepower which can’t be matched. Mohamed Salah is returning to offer more riches to Jürgen Klopp’s armoury. The hope is Diogo Jota won’t be too far behind.

It’s Nunez who can really elevate things from now until the end of the season. His ability to marvel is mixed with the ability to perplex. There has always been a confidence around the club in it clicking and that his effort pays off.

We might be seeing that coming to fruition, which will be perfect timing for all concerned.

Players with such an ability aren’t the norm. What Foden is doing shouldn’t be taken for granted. But Liverpool have never dealt in the realm of norms when going up against City.

If a unique footballer with massive potential and superstar ability is what we’re after right now. We should look no further than Darwin Nunez.


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