An exciting week for Liverpool fans awaits as the newly crowned Premier League winners take on former champions Manchester City on Thursday.
Manchester City are set to host Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on Thursday, in a game which was supposed to seal the title for the Premier League leaders.
However, it was the Cityzens’ 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in their last league game that awarded the title to the Reds, who currently hold an unassailable 23-point lead at the top with seven matches still left to be played.
It essentially means that Manchester City fans are in for a bitter time as Liverpool are the newly crowned Premier League champions regardless of the result. But, on the other side, coach Pep Guardiola will be aiming for at least a revenge, having slumped to an embarrassing 3-1 defeat when these two teams last met back in November.
The result of this particular fixture could also go a long way in dictating the future of the club, with a host of key figures including Guardiola himself, facing an uncertain time at Etihad. However, a 2-0 win over Newcastle United in the FA Cup should give them confidence as they look to end their campaign on a positive note.
As for Liverpool, they are coming into this game as the reigning champions of Europe, holders of the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the newly crowned champions of England. It is certainly not a bad look for a side that has witnessed tremendous growth under Jurgen Klopp over the past two seasons.
Chelsea’s win was certainly a bittersweet moment for the Reds as a large section of the fans would have wanted the club to seal the title by beating Manchester City. At the same time, however, the Merseyside giants became the first team to secure a Premier League title this early in the season.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will analyse their chances against Man City as they look to further their run, despite having already won the league title.
Tactics & Team News
Manchester City are missing out on the services of a few key players heading into this game including Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho (suspended). Guardiola is expected to make a few alterations to the side that secured a win over Newcastle United in the cup tie. Not in defence, however.
While Fernandinho is ruled out, Eric Garcia and John Stones are also doubts, meaning Aymeric Laporte is a guaranteed starter alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of Man City’s four-man backline. There might not be any rotation in the full-back slots either, with Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy starting ahead of Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
In central midfield, Guardiola is set to recall the influential Rodri in the number six role. The Spaniard’s aggression could be critical in breaking up play in the middle third of the pitch. He will be provided additional support by Ilkay Gundogan in the number eight role.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund star will primarily be looking to ease Man City’s transition by linking up with Kevin De Bruyne in the number ten role. While the Belgian playmaker did start against Newcastle, it was in a more withdrawn. And this time, he is set to replace David Silva in the attacking midfield slot.
Elsewhere, Riyad Mahrez has started every game since the restart and is in line for a potential return to the bench. It should pave the way for Bernardo Silva to operate at right-wing, with Raheem Sterling starting on the opposite flank.
Meanwhile, Silva shifting back to his role at right-wing should allow Gabriel Jesus to spearhead the Man City attack, in the absence of Aguero.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan; Silva, de Buryne, Sterling; Jesus
Despite sealing the title, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp would love to register a double against Manchester City. It is their first post-coronation fixture but certainly one of the toughest ones of the season. Hence, Klopp, who took the centre stage with the idea to celebrate their coronation, will definitely be on his toes.
That means talented Liverpool youngsters would still have to wait to get their chances in the first-team, with the German mastermind likely to retain the services of most, if not all the players that started in the win over Crystal Palace last time out.
Joel Matip is one of the players ruled out for the rest of the season. But that is unlikely to deter a Liverpool side, which already has a well-established back-four consisting of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson.
James Milner is likely to be in contention. But it is going to be difficult for him to get the nod ahead of Fabinho in the holding midfield role, with the Brazilian international set to be partnered by the duo Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson. The ex-Man City star could, however, make a late substitute appearance.
And finally, there will be no changes in attack, with Klopp opting for the revered offensive trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. He does have other options too including Takumi Minamino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Liverpool’s only victory in their past 10 league games at the Etihad Stadium came in Jurgen Klopp’s first match in charge against City in November 2015.
- Liverpool are looking to complete a Premier League double over City for just the third time.
- The Reds require 15 points out of a possible 21 in their final seven league matches to break the English top-flight points record of 100, set by Manchester City in 2017-18.
- Liverpool could go five successive away fixtures without scoring in all competitions for the first time since an eight-match run under Graeme Souness from February to April 1992.
- Guardiola has lost 20 top-flight matches in his four seasons in the Premier League, which is as many as he suffered in his previous seven seasons in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Player to Watch
When Sterling moved to Manchester City in a big-money move from Liverpool back in 2015, it seemed like the perfect decision from a sporting perspective. The winger’s chances of winning silverware increased considerably while he also went through a massive development under Guardiola.
But on Thursday, Sterling could certainly rue leaving Anfield as Liverpool, decorated with a host of titles including the Premier League, visit the Etihad. Although the player himself has won his fair share of trophies, it will certainly be a bitter moment.
From a sporting perspective, however, Sterling does remain a threat on the flanks. He hasn’t quite been able to make an impact since the restart but will be desperate to make an impression against his former side this midweek.
Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool
Manchester City haven’t looked sharp at all and have even appeared quite complacent at times. Yet, this is going to be a closely fought encounter, with both sides relying heavily on the quality possessed by their attackers. Liverpool do have the upper hand in terms of their defensive shape, making them slight favourites to come out with all three points this midweek.