As is customary but not necessarily compulsory, Manchester City players applauded their Liverpool opponents as they took the pitch Wednesday at the City of Manchester Stadium.
City gave Liverpool a guard of honor to commemorate the Reds' first-ever Premier League title, which was clinched after City's loss to Chelsea last week. The reigning champions clapped on their successors in Liverpool's first match since becoming the earliest Premier League side to win the title.
You can go back to 1955 when a guard of honor made its first appearance in the top flight of English soccer, when Manchester United applauded then-First Division champions Chelsea as they took the pitch. They've been common in the Premier League, and City themselves received one when they clinched the title during the 2017-18 season.
What made Thursday's guard of honor striking was seeing the reigning Premier League champions give one. This isn't the first time that's happened, as Chelsea honored Leicester City in 2016 after winning the league the previous season.
Leicester's title was a massive upset, whereas Manchester City fended off a fierce Liverpool challenge to win the Premier League last season. City's margin of victory atop the league (1 point) was owed almost entirely to a January 2019 win over Liverpool. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola said his players would honor Liverpool's achievement.
"We will greet Liverpool, when they come to our house, in an incredible way," Guardiola said last week. "We are going to do it because they deserve it."
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Liverpool's 23-point lead over City entering Thursday was far bigger than either club could've expected before the season, and the Reds' eventual margin of victory surely will shape Guardiola's approach to the impending transfer window.
Even before then, Thursday's guard of honor should drive home how far City have to climb back atop the Premier League.
Liverpool's celebrations are only just beginning, and the Premier League champions (28-2-1; 86 points) will take the field with that distinction for the first time Thursday.
Manchester City's loss to Chelsea last week clinched the title for the Reds, and last year's champions give their successors a guard of honor when Liverpool and City (20-3-8; 63 points) play at the City of Manchester Stadium. A guard of honor is customary to commemorate Premier League champions when they clinch in-season, but it's not compulsory or even in the Premier League rulebook. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola already said his players would honor Liverpool on Thursday, but his squad can still play spoiler.
History is still on offer for Liverpool, who are on pace to smash league records for wins, points and the largest gap between first and second. City has a chance to disrupt those ambitions, all while maintaining form and potentially sending a message for next season's title race.
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Here's how to watch Thursday's Manchester City-Liverpool match live online and on TV.
When: Thursday, July 2 at 3:15 p.m. ET/12:15 p.m. PT
Live stream: NBC Sports
The wait is over. Liverpool are Premier League champions.
The Reds officially clinched the first Premier League title in their history -- and their first English top-flight title in 30 years -- thanks to Manchester City's 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Thursday at Stamford Bridge.
Christian Pulisic and Willian became heroes to Liverpool supporters around the world, with their goals securing City's loss. Pulisic opened the scoring in the 36th minute, capitalizing on City's blunder in midfield. Kevin De Bruyne equalized with a stunning free kick in the 55th minute, but Willian gave the Blues the lead for good in the 83rd.
With seven matches to play, City's hopes of a three-peat were officially dashed. The league's reigning back-to-back champions fell 23 points behind Liverpool with the result.
Liverpool's title win is thus the latest and the earliest in the Premier League's history. The league's three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic ensured the former, but Liverpool's clinch with seven matches remaining is the soonest a Premier League side -- and one in the history of the English top flight -- have become champions.
That's a fitting honor for Liverpool, considering their end-to-end dominance of the Premier League this season. The Reds have been alone in first place on goal difference since the second week, and in sole possession on points since the third. Liverpool didn't drop points until drawing Manchester United in their ninth match of the campaign, and they didn't lose a match until a defeat at Watford in their 28th.
Liverpool's 2019-20 season will be remembered as one of, if not the best in Premier League history, and the Reds will soon lift the trophy they've waited so long to bring to Merseyside.