It will be the defending champions versus the favourites on Sunday as Liverpool play hosts to Manchester City at Anfield in the 2020/21 Premier League.
Reigning champions Liverpool will be aiming to get their Premier League season back on track when they lock horns with current league leaders Manchester Cty at Anfield in Matchweek 23 on Sunday evening.
Liverpool’s defence of the Premier League title has faltered in recent weeks as just two wins in eight league games has left them in the fourth place, seven points off of the leaders. The unbreachable fortress that was Anfield has fallen as well, with the Reds losing their last two home matches against bottom-half oppositions Burnley and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Manchester City, in contrast, are hitting top gear after a slow start to the campaign. Their 2-0 win against Burnley earlier in the week made it thirteen victories on the bounce across all competitions for Pep Guardiola & co. This has meant that the Cityzens are now perched atop the league standings with a three-point gap and a game in hand over second-placed Manchester United.
The reverse fixture, played at the Etihad Stadium last November ended in a 1-1 draw with Gabriel Jesus cancelling out Mohamed Salah’s early penalty. Ahead of the titanic encounter between the champions and the challengers, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Liverpool have been handed some much-needed injury boost ahead of the visit of Manchester City. Fabinho and Sadio Mane are back in training after missing the last few matches while first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker is also expected to be available after missing the Brighton defeat due to illness.
However, the Reds continue to be without the services of Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, with the latter three likely to miss the rest of the season. Jurgen Klopp will make some key changes to the side that took the field against Brighton in midweek.
Starting from goal, the returning Alisson should be reinstated in goal, at the expense of Caoimhin Kelleher. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are certain starters as the full-backs with the duo being Liverpool’s primary creative outlets.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 5, 2021
Fabinho’s availability will come as a major boost for Liverpool, with the Brazilian set to be reinstalled as one of the two centre-backs alongside January arrival Ozan Kabak. This move should allow Reds’ skipper Jordan Henderson to move to his preferred role in midfield from where he will look to cut out Ilkay Gundogan’s influence on the game.
Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum ought to be the other two central midfielders for Liverpool, with the former tasked with dictating the tempo of the game while the latter provides the legs in the engine room.
There is no looking past the terrific trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and the returning Mane in attack, although they will need to improve on their recent showings if Liverpool are to come out on top on Sunday. Xherdan Shaqiri will be an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Unlike their opponents, Manchester City do not have many roster issues ahead of the trip to Merseyside. However, they will still be without two of their clutch players in Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero while summer arrival Nathan Ake also remains unavailable for Pep Guardiola.
The Manchester City manager is likely to keep the changes to a minimum with his team performing brilliantly of late. Ederson Moraes is the undisputed starter between the sticks for the Cityzens with the centre-back duo of John Stones and Ruben Dias, who have been just brilliant in recent matches shielding the Brazilian.
Joao Cancelo and Aymeric Laporte started as the full-backs against Burnley, but Kyle Walker is expected to come into the side at right-back, in order to counter the pace of Sadio Mane. That would mean Cancelo will move to left-back, with the Portuguese often likely to veer into central midfield, while Walker tucks in to form a three-man backline.
Rodri will be anchor the midfield for Manchester City while the other two midfielders, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, will have the freedom to push forward at will and support the team in the attacking phases. Although, there is a chance that Gundogan, despite his recent performances, might be forced to curb his attacking instincts to sit back and support Rodri.
It will be interesting to see whether Guardiola goes in with a false-nine against Liverpool or opts to field a traditional centre-forward in the form of Gabriel Jesus. Given that the Brazilian has scored in his last two matches, there is a chance that he might get the nod at Anfield, with Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden flanking him in the wide areas.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, Gundogan; Sterling, Jesus, Foden
1. Over 3.5 Cards @ 1.83
1. Sadio Mane to score anytime @ 2.60
- Liverpool are undefeated in their last 21 home matches against Manchester City in all competitions.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 20 matches across all competitions, winning the previous 13 in a row. The Cityzens have kept a whopping 16 clean sheets during this run.
- Liverpool have lost their last two home games in the Premier League, having gone unbeaten in their previous 68 matches at Anfield in the competition.
- Manchester City have won on four of their last five league visits (L1) to the reigning Premier League champions having beaten Manchester United in 2011/12 and 2013/14 and Chelsea in 2015/16 and 2017/18.
- Liverpool have failed to score in their last three home games in the Premier League. The Reds are currently on a run of 346 minutes without a goal at Anfield and have never gone four games without scoring at home in the league.
Player to Watch
Just the Premier League's most creative players, with Joao Cancelo right among the more productive of them.
— Sam Lee (@SamLee) February 4, 2021
Having made the move to Manchester City in 2019, Joao Cancelo did not have the most impressive debut season in England. However, the ongoing campaign has seen the Portuguese international become an integral member of Pep Guardiola’s setup.
Be it at right-back or left-back, Cancelo has consistently impressed, whether it is by making overlapping runs and crossing into the box or dropping into midfield to aid build-up play and provide defensive support. However, on Sunday, the former Juventus man will be in for a huge test.
Both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are top quality attackers who possess the quality to make the most of any space left behind by the Portuguese and the 26-year-old Cancelo will need to be at the top of his game to ensure that the Liverpool attackers are kept quiet on whichever flank he starts at Anfield.
Liverpool 0-2 Manchester City
Liverpool are going through a difficult phase at the moment, having not scored a single goal at home in three matches, losing two of those. On the other hand, there are Manchester City, who have been in rampant form, having won 13 in a row, scoring goals regularly while not letting anything in at the back.
Indeed, the Cityzens are yet to concede a single goal in the Premier League when Ederson Moraes, John Stones and Ruben Dias have all started together. And that is likely to be the case once again on Sunday. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s defensive unit, which will likely have a debutant on Sunday, might find it hard to contain the visitors.
As a result, The Hard Tackle is predicting Manchester City to heap further misery on Jurgen Klopp & co. this weekend, while strengthening their clutches on the Premier League title.