On Sunday afternoon, Manchester City will cross over to Merseyside and visit Anfield. Many are calling this the biggest game of the season and its difficult to argue! Here is a preview of the game that shows the history, stats, and key players that will define the game.
Both sides head into the game in pretty impressive form. Liverpool are still unbeaten in the Premier League this season, having won all but one of their games after the hard-fought draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford. A similar situation in the relevant cups, losing only one Champions League game against Napoli back in September, it’s fair to say they are flying high. Having come back from 1-0 down against Aston Villa to snatch a win in the dying moments, spirits are high!
Manchester City are in similar position although 2 losses against Wolves and Norwich this season see them slightly adrift from the almost perfect Liverpool. However, City’s blips never last long and they are not going to let Liverpool run away easily. Centre-back issues have meant changing line ups from Guardiola, however they are seeming to weather the storm relatively well, and every club will have at least one patch in the season where injuries play a part. If they can get through this patch, they will look to target Liverpool in the latter stages of the season, where fixture congestion and squad depth will play a part.
There’s not many managers that can get Pep nervous, but Jurgen Klopp is definitely one. The games always promise excitement and this one should be no different. Last season saw a 0-0 draw at Anfield which ended up being a very tight game that City would have been slightly happier with at the time. The reverse fixture saw Manchester City win at the Etihad 2-1,with Aguero and Sane scoring either side of a Roberto Firmino goal.
The two sides have played each other this season as well, with Man City coming out on top in the Community Shield in penalties, although some may argue this game has slightly more significance for the two teams and managers!
In their last 6 meetings in all competitions, Man City have won only once in 90 minutes, with Liverpool winning 3, and 2 draws. Always a close fixture, it’s hard to pick a winner.
Known previously for their rampant goalscoring and strong defence, Klopp’s Liverpool have had to endure a slightly rougher run in their first 11 games this season. They have conceded 9 goals and scored 25 compared to the 34 that City have (although 8 of them came in one game).
City’s defence has struggled comparatively as well, conceding 10. Offensively, Man City have utilised their dribbling more, attempting 13.5/game compared to Liverpool’s 8.7, whereas Liverpool have been more direct in their attacking
Players to Watch
The chances of predicting a Pep Guardiola line up are about as slim as the gap for the VAR decision that ruled Roberto Firmino offside with an armpit, but 2 players that have been a staple for their side is Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
De Bruyne has been rampant since returning from a season-plaguing injury. Scoring 2 goals and providing an incredible 9 assists, the Belgian midfielder has been the creative key to City’s attacking play. A joy to watch on the pitch, the space he can find and the passes he can pick make him one of, if not the, best player in the number 10 role in the world. Making an incredible 4 key passes per game, there is no doubt he is going to be a problem for Liverpool.
Raheem Sterling has had a solid season so far by his own standards. After last season’s heroics, City fans were hoping the goals would continue to flow into this season. And with 7 goals so far this season, he looks to be on form. Injuries to Benjamin Mendy have meant Oleksandr Zinchenko had a run at right-back, and this has sometimes meant Sterling needing to stifle his creativity in ways for the benefit of the team defensively.
For Liverpool, Salah and Mane are the two that City will keep their eyes on. Sadio Mane has sometimes been in the shadow of his teammate on the other wing and at times this has even seemed to cause friction between the two. However, having picked up the shared golden boot last season, the Senegalese is showing why he’s one of the best. 6 goals and 2 assists to his name so far, including a late winner against Aston Villa show how critical he is to the team. Making tackles compared to his counterpart shows that his work off the ball is just as important as when it is at his feet.
Mo Salah on the other side is enough to strike fear into any back line, and he has shown why again this season. The Egyptian has 5 goals and 3 assists so far for his side, and was arguably a huge absence in the only draw of the season against Manchester United. Quick, agile and unpredictable, Salah causes problems on the right hand side and the centre, and that is something that Divock Origi (and later, Jordan Henderson) just couldn’t replicate. This showed his impact with his right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who resorted to trying to whip crosses from almost the half-way line.
This game is shaping up to be a real big one in the outcome and, with Chelsea and Leicester chasing, a loss for either side will have a huge impact on standings and confidence. Liverpool have seen it before, having had a healthy lead around this time last season and failing to capitalise, but Man City have shown weaknesses this season that they didn’t before. How important will injuries be, with Ederson the latest casualty to City’s back line, and van Dijk rested midweek causing injury fears.
Tune in at 4:30pm to find out!