With all eyes on the Premier League title race and the sprint to qualify for Europe, we caught up with Liverpool legend, and BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former midfielder discussed why Liverpool and Manchester City isn’t the Premier League’s greatest rivalry, where Manchester United could finish this season, and why Arsenal’s inexperience might hand Spurs fourth place.
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester City vs Liverpool isn’t the Premier League’s greatest rivalry
“Despite Jamie Carragher’s view, Manchester City vs Liverpool isn’t the greatest rivalry in Premier League history. Certainly not at the moment anyway. Particularly when you remember Arsène Wenger vs Sir Alex Ferguson with Arsenal and Manchester United and the way they went head-to-head for years.
“City vs Liverpool is certainly the greatest rivalry if you look at the past three years. When Jürgen Klopp first came in five years ago, the rivalry wasn’t there, so it’s only really developed in the last three. If things continue this way, then certainly, it could become the greatest ever.
“When you look at what Wenger and Ferguson went through together though, it’s just too early to call this [Liverpool and City] the greatest.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Winning the Premier League is the most important thing for Liverpool
“Liverpool shouldn’t prioritise the Premier League over the Champions League or vice-versa.
“They have never prioritised games or competitions over one another before. If you do that, you neglect the other and could fall away in that competition and then still not win the other.
“Liverpool believe they have a squad to challenge in all four competitions every year. Jürgen Klopp won’t make any one game or competition the priority.
“If I had to choose one, I’d go hell for leather on the Premier League. Liverpool have always wanted to win it, since Bill Shankly’s time in charge. It is the most important competition and anything else is a bonus.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Trent Alexander Arnold’s defensive lapses are worth it because of his attacking prowess
“Trent Alexander Arnold does not have a future as a midfielder. He is a right back and that’s why he’s able to play facing forward.
“Trent may not be as good defensively as he is going forward, but he doesn’t always have to play teams of Manchester City’s quality. People can say he needs to work on things defensively, but most of the time, Liverpool are on the front foot.
“Liverpool will happily suffer that odd occasion where he plays against a top team like Manchester City. The balance of what he does on a season, versus that time when you come up against tough opposition like Real Madrid or Manchester City, Liverpool should stomach that for the benefit of what he does in an attacking sense.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United can still finish fourth this season
“Despite their current predicament, there is no way that Manchester United could slip into the mid-table obscurity. They may not finish in the top four, but they won’t finish lower than seventh. However, it’s likelier that they will probably finish between fourth and sixth.
“Because of Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham’s inconsistency they could still finish fourth in the league, but they must find a way to get back into the top three.
“The idea of being in the top four for every club other than Manchester City or Liverpool means third or fourth. Manchester United need to consistently nail down fourth place before worrying about third or the top two.
“A team like Manchester United really should be challenging the top two.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United’s front four don’t support the rest of the team
“Harry Maguire is a player that is good enough for Manchester United.
“United must defend better as a team. Other sides like Liverpool have the midfield three and front three working to help their defense. It’s the same at Manchester City where Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernado Silva all work hard defensively.
“United’s front four don’t work hard enough. I don’t blame the front four at United for missing chances. Cristiano Ronaldo scores enough goals and Marcus Rashford might be misfiring, but that isn’t why they should be blamed. They need to work harder off the ball to help the team.
“If you aren’t going to score goals, you need to work hard to help the team defensively. That is Manchester United’s problem.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United fans must back the new manager
“Bruno Fernandes recently signed a new contract so is obviously committed to Manchester United. Marcus Rashford isn’t playing as well as he can do, and he’s not a mainstay in the team anymore so he won’t move to a better club than United.
“Players aren’t going to leave Manchester United and go to better clubs. Cristiano Ronaldo is also 36 so he won’t go to a better club either. If they want to fulfil their ambition, they’re at the right club. They must change their mentality and attitude, and the club must let the manager be totally in charge with full authority.
“The fans also have to start backing the manager, regardless of who he plays, rather than looking to blame the manager when they don’t win but that’s a process, it won’t happen overnight.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal’s inexperience could hand Spurs fourth spot
“Arsenal have a relatively inexperienced side. A month ago, I would have said they were favourites for the final Champions League place, but we were probably all quite naïve in thinking they had turned a corner after they started to win matches.
“They’re still a young and inexperienced side, but the future is bright for Arsenal and the more they stick with Arteta and the young players [the better they will get], they’ll be just fine.
“Tottenham – with Antonio Conte, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have a bit more know-how and they are ahead of Arsenal in that respect.
“That said, we can’t write off Manchester United but between Arsenal and Tottenham right now, Spurs are slight favourites.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal need two strikers this summer
“Arsenal didn’t make a mistake in getting rid of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the situation was untenable. The fact that he’s scoring in Barcelona doesn’t mean he would’ve started scoring if he stayed at Arsenal.
“Alexandre Lacazette looks like he’ll be leaving but they can’t sign anyone until the summer.
“There’s no point crying over spilt milk, they just have to soldier on with what they have and they’re going to have to sign two strikers in the summer, but they will resolve that situation in the summer.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Steven Gerrard is not a dirty manager
“Steven Gerrard doesn’t set his teams up to injure players, they go to compete – when players get injured it’s unfortunate.
“Matty Cash didn’t mean to injure Matt Doherty; these things just happen in football. If we’re talking about what happened in my day, or earlier, those things were terrible, but those days are gone.
“Fans want their teams to be physical and Steven Gerrard is telling his players to be physical, strong and intense.
“This has just been blown way out of proportion, Gerrard doesn’t set his team out to hurt people.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Top players won’t choose Newcastle for a few years yet
“Liverpool were looking at Ismaïla Sarr last year so if he’s good enough for Liverpool to look at, he must be good enough for Newcastle.
“Newcastle have to walk before they can run. They’re not going to be signing the best players in the world suddenly because there are bigger clubs than Newcastle.
“Newcastle can’t spend more money than Liverpool or pay higher salaries to a lot of the players yet. They have the money, but they’re not allowed to spend it.
“The idea of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in a Newcastle shirt is wrong, because if any of the top players in world become available, they’ll still go to Liverpool, Manchester City, PSG or Manchester United, before Newcastle.
“They must grow slowly, get better players, and in two or three years, when they show they’re competing, that’s when they can move for the big players.
“Next year they should look push into the top 10, and in a few years they can look for Europe. It won’t happen overnight.”
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