THERE is a moment in the All Or Nothing documentary that goes inside the Manchester City dressing room title-winning season of 2017-18 when Pep Guardiola starts to contemplate his side’s forthcoming Champions League match against Liverpool.

City have lost just four matches in 48 games but Guardiola is mindful that one of them has come against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

In the week before the game, the programme makers capture Guardiola in a quieter period of reflection, the camera closes in on the Catalan and you can almost hear the cogs turning in his head as he goes over the permutations for the tactical battle to come.

In the end he blinks, starting Ilkay Gundogan as his right-sided attacker in place of Raheem Sterling. In an instant his decision condemns City to their fate. The German is a negative selection by Guardiola, it changes his side’s natural shape and before they know it they are 3-0 down and never recover. That is what a game such as this can do to the most attuned of coaching minds, it can turn even the best football brains to spaghetti.

Klopp called it the toughest fixture in world football at Friday’s pre-match press conference. Guardiola reiterated the sentiment at his, claiming that the German’s Liverpool team were on a par with Luis Enrique’s Barcelona as one of the two best he has faced as a coach.

But that was then and this is now, of course. The conclusion after their 90 minutes yesterday was that they remain formidable. But measuring who might contest the Premier League title race this season looks as if it might be more of a jigsaw puzzle than it has been for the previous two.

Five points separate the top eight teams in the division but City and Liverpool have yet to face the bulk of that group. That fact will change soon enough with Anfield set to host Leicester while City face a trip to London to play Tottenham immediately after the international break.

The corresponding fixtures last season ended in a narrow win for Liverpool, thanks to a controversial penalty five minutes into injury time, and a 2-0 defeat for City. Their opponents will be improved this time around so there is enough to suggest that – as good as England’s two best club sides are – they will not have disappeared from view by the time the calendar ticks over into the new year.

What the evidence yesterday indicated is that, defensively, City and Liverpool are now more closely matched.

Guardiola’s side’s soft underbelly was what cost City the title last season with just under a goal per game conceded. But prior to yesterday they had given up just 8.2 shots per game and let in only three goals from open play, good enough for second in the league in both categories.

While Liverpool were not exactly watertight last season, they weren’t conceding at more than two goals per game as they are now. That’s one more in total than bottom-placed Sheffield United have shipped in seven defeats and a draw.

The explanations for those negative stats are well-worn: a 7-2 thumping at Aston Villa and the absence of Virgil van Dijk have skewed the figures.

The improvement in City’s numbers are more of a bellwether for how they have tightened up. Ruben Dias has arrived from Benfica and appears to be a reliable No.5 who defends first and foremost. Alongside Aymeric Laporte he has stiffened City’s resolve in the defensive third and for a team more noted for its attacking options that is gravy.

Liverpool, of course, have multiple attacking threats themselves and yesterday they unleashed all of them at once in a 4-2-4 that threatened to overrun City in the opening stages. Instead, they had to settle for Mo Salah’s penalty after Kyle Walker had chopped down Sadio Mane, who had the England right-back on toast for the first 25 minutes. When he crossed for Roberto Firmino midway through the first half, though, it was Dias who got a block in.

Liverpool’s porous nature revealed itself soon after when Kevin de Bruyne exploited a hole in their defensive shape and fed Gabriel Jesus for the equaliser, then Joe Gomez was caught out by de Bruyne’s cross and City were awarded a penalty which the Belgian promptly missed.

It was literally a breathtaking opening with players on both sides taking huge gulps of air.

The gaps continued to open for both teams – Diogo Jota was wasteful when Ederson punched the ball straight to him while Jesus headed wide when he found himself all alone following a run from right to left. There were further near misses but nothing clear cut.

The chances were more sporadic thereafter, the effort expended in the first 60 minutes meant that energy levels were bound to dip and the closing stages were played out in a lower gear.

For the other aspirant title contenders looking for signs of weakness there would have been mixed feelings: a sense of foreboding that the attacking instincts of both remain undimmed but optimism, too, that the some of the defensive failings of old are still present.

However, measuring the latter against the former – especially when faced with two sets of outstanding front lines – remains an inexact science. The scoreline alone demonstrated that.