The biggest game of the 2021/22 Premier League season will be played this weekend when Manchester City play Liverpool in a potential title-decider.
Some call it the most exciting rivalry of modern English football, some dub it the ‘El Clasico‘ of the Premier League. Regardless of the tag, a contest between Manchester City and Liverpool never fails to excite the supporters. On Sunday, though, it will have an added edge, as a lot will be at stake when Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp pit their wits against each other at the Etihad Stadium.
For Manchester City and Liverpool are involved in one of the closest title races in recent history in the Premier League. The reigning champions are ahead at the moment, just by a solitary point, but face a rampant Reds outfit who have scythed down the gap between the two teams ruthlessly over the past three months to position themselves as a serious threat to the Cityzens.
Manchester City are on an eight-game unbeaten run across all competitions. They come into this game on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. Meanwhile, Liverpool have won each of their last five games in all competitions. They prepared for this blockbuster tie with a 3-1 victory over Benfica in Europe.
Manchester City and Liverpool played out a thrilling 2-2 draw earlier this season at Anfield. Both teams are in good form heading into Sunday’s mammoth clash and are very much aware that whoever wins here would have a major edge in the race for the Premier League crown. Ahead of this encounter of enormous proportions, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.
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"𝙒𝙚 𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙖𝙧" 📈
A look back at Pep and Klopp's rivalry so far! ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/A3kDjuJGdf
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 9, 2022
Manchester City have just one major absentee in the form of defensive mainstay, Ruben Dias. Apart from the Portuguese international, youngster Cole Palmer will also be unavailable. Kyle Walker, who missed the midweek clash due to suspension, is available for selection for the Premier League encounter.
Pep Guardiola will set his team up in his preferred 4-3-3 formation against Liverpool, with Ederson Moraes guarding the goal. With Dias unavailable, John Stones will partner Aymeric Laporte at the heart of the Manchester City backline while there is no looking past Walker and Joao Cancelo in the full-back slots. The latter will have an interesting battle against Mohamed Salah on Sunday.
Rodri will be the man tasked with sweeping up in the middle of the park and thwarting Liverpool when they push forward. Kevin De Bruyne will essay the role of the chief creator for the home team from midfield. The Reds will need to keep him quiet to stand a chance of winning. The industrious Bernardo Silva should edge Ilkay Gundogan out for the third slot in the centre of the pitch for the Cityzens.
Moving into the final third of the pitch, Phil Foden, who has a healthy record against Liverpool recently, should line up as the false-nine through the middle. Riyad Mahrez is a certainty to feature on the right flank, while Jack Grealish should slot in on the left side, from where he will look to trouble Trent Alexander-Arnold. Ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling will provide an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Grealish
Liverpool have a fully-fit squad for their trip to the Etihad Stadium. However, Roberto Firmino missed Friday’s training session, which has cast doubts over his involvement on Sunday evening. Midfield mainstay Fabinho is available for selection after a clash of heads in the midweek game against Benfica.
Jürgen Klopp expects to have everyone available for Sunday 👌
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 8, 2022
With almost everyone available for selection, the entire Liverpool lineup pretty much picks itself. Alisson Becker will start between the sticks and look to fare better than his compatriot in the Manchester City goal. Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk ought to pair up in defence, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson slot in as the full-backs. They will serve as the main creative outlet for the visiting side.
Fabinho will occupy the holding midfield position and will be tasked with paying special attention to Kevin De Bruyne. Jordan Henderson will provide the legs in the engine room for Liverpool, with Thiago Alcantara offering composure and vision. Naby Keita did well in midweek against Benfica, but Klopp could lean towards his captain Henderson for this game.
Mohamed Salah will be itching to get back to goalscoring ways after an ordinary performance in the Champions League encounter. He will take up his customary position on the right flank. With Firmino’s situation uncertain, Liverpool might field Sadio Mane through the middle and deploy January signing Luis Diaz out on the left side. Diogo Jota would also be an option for Klopp to consider.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz
- Liverpool are winless in four Premier League games against Manchester City (D2, L2).
- Manchester City have won eight of their past nine home league matches, with the exception being a 3-2 defeat against Tottenham in February.
- Liverpool have won each of their past 10 league games, keeping eight clean sheets in the process. However, the Merseysiders have not managed to secure a shutout in any of their last 11 league matches at Etihad Stadium.
- Manchester City star Phil Foden has scored in each of his past three appearances against Liverpool. The only player to net in four successive league games against the Reds is Jamie Vardy, who did so in five consecutive fixtures between 2016 and 2017.
- This will be the 23rd competitive game between sides managed by Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Each of them has recorded eight wins so far, with six matches ending in draws (including fixtures settled by a penalty shootout).
Player to Watch
Mo Salah when asked if he is bothered by his lack of goals in recent games:
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) April 8, 2022
The 29-year-old Liverpool star had an uncharacteristically disappointing game against Benfica earlier this week as he struggled to put away chances. It came after another poor performance in the Premier League against Watford last weekend. So, the limelight will be on Mohamed Salah to step up and perform in this monumental encounter.
Despite the lull in the last couple of games, Salah remains the top scorer in the league, with 20 goals to his name. Furthermore, the Egyptian international is vying to score in a fourth consecutive Premier League appearance against Manchester City. Things could get difficult for the Cityzens on Sunday at the Etihad if he gets going.
Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool
As iterated already, this is perhaps the biggest game of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign with a lot riding on it. While the managers might downplay the match, saying it is not the title decider, whoever wins on Sunday will have a big edge in the race for the Premier League crown along with confidence and momentum on their side.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City secured good results in midweek in the Champions League. Although the Cityzens have had some missteps in the league since the turn of the year, they will be more than ready when the Reds come visiting. Even though Liverpool have failed to win in their last four meetings against Pep Guardiola’s men, they have been in rampant form this year and will be up for the challenge.
All things considered, it could be another tightly-contested encounter between the two best teams in England and much like the reverse fixture at Anfield, we could be in for a high-scoring draw.