Manchester City will hope to be the first team to defeat Liverpool in the Premier League this season when the two teams meet at Etihad on Thursday.
Pep Guardiola is a furious man. After a brilliant start to the defence of their Premier League crown, Manchester City have let it slip themselves, with defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City seeing Liverpool overlap them as the trendsetter for the season.
Liverpool, unlike City, are yet to drop the ball. Undefeated in the league this season, the Reds opened up a seven point gap up top, a gap that has shrivelled to six after Tottenham won their match against Cardiff City on Tuesday. The stage is set for Liverpool to grab their maiden Premier League title. But, they must be wary of the challenge ahead.
For Manchester City, it is a simple case of looking forward to the next match. If they manage to beat Liverpool, the gap will shrink to four points. But, more importantly, it would end the invincible aura around Liverpool and will test their mental strength, with the Reds yet to be asked to bounce back from a defeat in the league this season.
The last time these two teams met in the Premier League at Etihad, City ended up with a thumping 5-0 win over Liverpool. We now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
There have been calls for Pep Guardiola to reunite Aymeric Laporte and John Stones in central defence. But, the problem area is on the left. Benjamin Mendy is injured and Fabian Delph is suspended after his red card against Leicester. This could see Laporte being stationed on the left, with Vincent Kompany pairing up with Stones. Kyle Walker is likely to start on the right side of the defence.
Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne are both doubtful for the fixture. Thus, we could see the Silva duo start in midfield once again, accompanied by Fernandinho, who will act more like an Anchor Man for the defence.
Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane should start on the wings. While Gabriel Jesus is fit and available, Sergio Aguero is guaranteed to start upfront, with the Argentine in brilliant form this season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Kompany, Laporte; David Silva, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Jurgen Klopp should revert to a 4-3-3 to counter Manchester City’s shape. The back four should be retained from the 5-1 win over Arsenal, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson doing a commendable job in defence.
Fabinho is likely to lose his place, with Jordan Henderson likely to come in to stabilise the midfield to an extent. Naby Keita will be entrusted with the prospect of moving the ball forward while Georginio Wijnaldum will complete the midfield.
While Xherdan Shaqiri has been brilliant recently, Klopp will likely sacrifice the Swiss international, with only three spots up for grabs in attack. Roberto Firmino will return to his position upfront while Mohamed Salah is on the right. Sadio Mane will be stationed on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.57
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
3. Sergio Aguero to score anytime @ 1.83
1. Both Teams to Score in 1st Half – YES @ 4.00
1. Both Manchester City and Liverpool have scored in four of their last five meetings at Etihad in all competitions.
2. Manchester City have failed to register a clean sheet in their last six games in all competitions, keeping just one in their last 10.
3. Manchester City have conceded twice as many goals as Liverpool (8) in the Premier League so far this season.
4. Despite 10 goals and 7 assists so far this season, Raheem Sterling has failed to contribute towards a goal in his last four appearances for Manchester City.
5. After a dry spell of sorts, Mohamed Salah has six goals and 3 assists in his last five league appearances.
Player to Watch
In the hour of need, Pep Guardiola will field Aymeric Laporte on the left, especially after Oleksandr Zinchenko struggled against Southampton and is unlikely to be trusted for the match on Thursday. It will be up to the defender to neutralise the attacking presence of Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Also, it will be interesting to see just how comfortable Laporte will be going about his duties on the left, marauding when necessary and supporting City’s attack.
Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool
Honestly, Liverpool are the favourites going into the match. But, Manchester City are out to prove a point, that they are still very much in the title race. A win for City will open up the entire chase for themselves and Tottenham. Liverpool have looked convincing going forward in the last two games.
Manchester City have problems of their own. But, what will be interesting to see is how Pep Guardiola will be able to nullify the threat posed by Liverpool’s enigmatic attack. Expect a scoring affair at Etihad, with the game likely to end in a draw.