Manchester City can bridge gap to Liverpool with correct recruitment, says Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher believes Manchester City will close the gap on newly-crowned Premier League champions Liverpool next season – but only if they get their recruitment right this summer.

Liverpool, who clinched the title when City were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea last week, sit 23 points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side ahead of Thursday night’s meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

Carrager insists the two sides are far more evenly matched than the Premier League table suggests, however, and believes City will be eager to prove it before strengthening their defence when the transfer window opens at the end of the campaign.

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“There’s 23 points between the teams but I don’t see the gap as being that big,” Carragher told the Sky Sports Football Midweek Preview Podcast.

“There’s no doubt that Liverpool have the edge, but I certainly don’t think there will be that much between the teams next season.

“I think City will want to put a marker down and win the game.

“When City are at their best, they’re almost unstoppable, but one of the few teams that can stop them are Liverpool, so I think it will be a brilliant game to watch.

“It would have been nice if there was a little bit more riding on it, for Liverpool to be able seal [the title] against City.

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“But I don’t think there’s too much between the teams. We’ve seen it this season, but I don’t expect to see it next season because I think City are too good a team and Guardiola is too good a manager to have a gap like that between one of his teams and someone else’s.

“I think a lot of it will [come down to] who City recruit.

“There’s no doubt that City will do a lot more in the market than Liverpool will. I think if City recruit well, it will bridge that gap that we’ve seen this season and then it becomes about how Liverpool deal with that.”

Carragher believes the main area for improvement at City is their defence, where a lack of quality depth proved costly following Vincent Kompany’s departure and injuries to Aymeric Laporte.

“Man City are a better team than Liverpool with the ball. Your own eye tells you that, but you can also look at the stats in terms of goals scored,” he said.

“The big problem is how many goals City have conceded compared to Liverpool. That’s the big difference between the two teams.

“I think the centre-backs issue was a problem for City all season. They need to rectify having lost Kompany. If they add in that position, they could certainly bridge the gap and make it really tight next year.”

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‘No concerns over Liverpool mentality’

Like last summer, when Liverpool’s only recruits were back-up goalkeeper Adrian and youngsters Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg, Carragher is expecting a quiet transfer window at Anfield.

The Reds have already pulled out of a move for Timo Werner, who has since sealed a move to Chelsea instead, but Carragher believes they have shown the benefits of stability this year and the former defender is certain that the existing squad will be just as hungry to bring more success to the club next season.

“When a team wins something you hear the old cliché that you’ve always got to strengthen when you’re at your best, but that was probably proven incorrect this season by how well Liverpool did in the league,” he said

“I don’t have any worry about Liverpool dropping off mentally because they’ve won the league,” he added. “With the type of manager Jurgen Klopp is, I don’t think he would accept that.

“If you go back to Borussia Dortmund as well, they won two titles in a row against Bayern Munich, which is no easy feat.

“That shows you again that his teams don’t drop off after winning the title.

“I’m not worried about that, it’s just whether City’s recruitment strategy will get them a lot closer to, or overhaul, Liverpool next season.”

‘De Bruyne holds key in Etihad clash’

As for Thursday’s meeting at the Etihad Stadium, which is live on Sky Sports, Carragher believes the outcome is likely to depend on whether Liverpool are able to keep Kevin de Bruyne under control.

The Belgian has been in inspired form this season, scoring 10 goals and providing 16 assists in the Premier League, and Carragher believes his ability is unrivalled in the division.

“Kevin de Bruyne is, for me, the best player in the Premier League,” he said. “If I could pick one player to have in my team, it’s a toss-up between him and Virgil van Dijk.

“When De Bruyne is in space at the Etihad and he gets on that ball and he’s playing passes or crosses, it is a joy to watch.

“Can Liverpool control Kevin de Bruyne? And can City’s back four cope with Liverpool’s front three?

“I think those are the big questions, really. If Liverpool can stop that man in midfield, I think that will stop a lot of City.

“But it’s whether Guardiola comes up with something a little bit different for Liverpool’s front three. He could go with three at the back, or with a more defensive full-back, as he did in this fixture last year when he put Laporte at left-back.

“He always seems to have something a little bit different up his sleeve against Liverpool, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something like that.

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