It’s the champions versus the challengers this weekend in the Premier League as title holders Manchester City take on contenders Liverpool at Anfield.
Liverpool will be aiming to strengthen their hold at the top of the Premier League table when they lock horns against rivals and defending champions Manchester City at Anfield on Super Sunday.
Liverpool have enjoyed an exceptional start to the season as they sit at the top of the standings. Unbeaten after 11 matches, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have dropped points just once – in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United and head into the the weekend on the back of consecutive 2-1 wins against Aston Villa and Genk (Champions League). The leaders will be intent on further extending their lead at the top with a win.
Manchester City started the week in second place, six points behind Liverpool. But, with Chelsea winning on Saturday against Crystal Palace and Leicester City beating Arsenal, Pep Guardiola’s side have dropped to fourth. Preparations haven’t been ideal for the Cityzens as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Atalanta in the Champions League earlier in the week. They will be aiming to reduce the gap at the top to three points with a win.
Ahead of what is a highly-anticipated encounter that will have huge bearings on the title race, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Liverpool will once again be without the services of Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri, while Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee. Captain Jordan Henderson has recovered from the illness that had kept him out of the team in the midweek and is available for selection.
The manager had fielded a somewhat changed starting lineup in the midweek against Genk and is expected to recall his big guns for the big game against Manchester City. There is no looking past the fit-again Alisson Becker in goal, while Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk ought to pair up at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
England international Trent Alexander-Arnold is a shoe-in at right-back, while Andrew Robertson should return to the side at left-back after being rested in the midweek. Fabinho is a guaranteed starter in the holding midfield role for the Premier League leaders while Georginio Wijnaldum, who scored in the midweek, ought to keep his place in the side.
The third midfield slot will see Henderson battle it out with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been in fine form in recent weeks. While the latter’s inclusion will provide Liverpool with more attacking impetus, Klopp could lean towards the control and experience that his captain would provide in the middle.
Mohamed Salah will start in attack again and see his regular partners Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane return to the fold after not starting against Genk earlier in the week.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
The biggest news coming out of the Manchester City camp is that goalkeeper Ederson will miss the trip to Anfield after picking up an injury against Atalanta earlier this week. The Brazilian joins the likes of captain David Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, Oleksandr Zinchenko on the sidelines, while there are significant doubts surrounding the availability of summer signing Rodri.
Given the number of injuries, Guardiola has a bit of a selection headache heading into the crunch tie against the title challengers. With Ederson unlikely to make it, Claudio Bravo is set to start his first league game of the season in goal. The veteran keeper will have protection from the centre-back duo of John Stones and Fernandinho, with Nicolas Otamendi likely to drop out.
Kyle Walker should get the nod over Joao Cancelo at right-back owing to his experience in the Premier League, while Benjamin Mendy should hold on to his place on the left side of the backline.
With Fernandinho playing in defence and Rodri doubtful, Ilkay Gundogan ought to start as the deepest of the three central midfielders for Manchester City. He will have Kevin De Bruyne for company, along with Bernardo Silva both of whom will be tasked with providing the creativity going forward for the champions.
Riyad Mahrez should get the nod on the right flank while Raheem Sterling will be aiming to make an impression against his former club from the left side. Sergio Aguero should spearhead the Manchester City attack ahead of Gabriel Jesus on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bravo; Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy; De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
- Liverpool have only lost one of their last 28 top-flight home games against Manchester City (1-2 in May 2003), and are unbeaten in their last 16 against them at Anfield in the Premier League (W11 D5).
- After losing four Premier League games in a row against Liverpool between 2015-2016, Manchester City have lost just one of their last five against the Reds in the competition (W2 D2).
- Liverpool have won more Premier League games against reigning champions than any other side in the competition’s history (21). Indeed, they haven’t lost at home in such a match since December 2007 (0-1 vs Manchester United), winning six and drawing five since.
- Manchester City are winless in their last 16 Premier League away games against Liverpool – their longest such winless streak against an opponent in the competition’s history.
- Liverpool have only lost one of their last 50 Premier League games (W41 D8 L1), with that loss coming against Manchester City in January. The Reds are unbeaten in their last 28 Premier League games, the eighth longest such run in the competition.
Player to Watch
Heading into the game all eyes are guaranteed to be on Manchester City’s stand-in goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. The 36-year-old is set to deputise for the injured Ederson at Anfield and will have his task cut out if the reigning champions are to prevail against the league leaders on Sunday.
There is no doubting the importance that Ederson holds in this Manchester City side and it will be up to Bravo to ensure that the Brazilian’s absence is not felt. The fact that the former Barcelona custodian received a red card against Atalanta earlier in the week after coming on to replace Ederson will add further pressure on the Chilean. A stern test awaits for the experienced Bravo.
Liverpool 2-1 Manchester City
Liverpool are six points clear at the top and will know that a win against Manchester City on Sunday will put them in firm hold of the title race. The Cityzens will be aware that dropping points at Anfield this weekend would put a serious dent in their hopes of retaining the title despite it being quite early in the season.
However, Liverpool have made Anfield a fortress in the past couple of years and time and again this season have shown that they can eke out results from difficult situations, as was seen against Aston Villa last weekend. On the other hand, Ederson’s absence will be quite a blow for Manchester City, who haven’t done all too well on their trips to Anfield in the past.
Considering all things, it will be a keenly contested tie at Anfield, but we at The Hard Tackle are backing Jurgen Klopp & co. to edge out a narrow victory on Sunday, strengthening their grip at the top of the table and in the process, handing Pep Guardiola’s side a big blow.