STAR PREVIEW: Liverpool v Man City

Whilst there are still many months of the season to go, it’s hard to describe today’s clash between Manchester City and Liverpool as anything but a potential title decider. A victory for Liverpool – 8/11 to win a first Premier League title with Star Sports – would take them nine points clear of the defending champions. A draw keeps them six points ahead of the reigning champions (themselves 11/10 shots for a third straight title with Star), and victory for City would bring the gap to just three points.

Liverpool have every reason to be confident. Anfield has become an almost insurmountable fortress, where Liverpool have gone unbeaten in 45 Premier League games. They are unbeaten in 28 Premier League matches, winning 19 of the last 20, whether overpowering opponents through the high press or winning games late on through moments of quality.

The front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane is still proving to be too much for most defences, with Mane in particular having taken his game to the next level. Bombing full-backs Andy Robertson (integral to their last gasp 2-1 win against Aston Villa last week) and Trent Alexander-Arnold provide pressure from the flanks whilst Klopp has a great deal of midfield depth too. He was able to make six changes and still see his side beat Genk 2-1 in midweek, and the only certainty we have is that Fabinho will start – anyone of Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Naby Keita could join him.

Liverpool v Man City
Premier League
16:30 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
AUG 2019 COMMUNITY SHIELD Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City
JAN 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
OCT 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City
APR 2018 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool
APR 2018 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City
JAN 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City
SEP 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool
MAR 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
DEC 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 1-0 Manchester City
MAR 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City

The defending champions, City are the last side to beat Liverpool. They have won 22 of their last 25 Premier League matches and over their two title-winning seasons they have won 198 points, a standard any Premier League title winning side would struggle to match.

This season has not been perfect, largely due to ill-timed injuries. An injury to Aymeric Laporte, City’s best defender, has put the backline off balance and whilst John Stones has returned to the defence, Guardiola has been hit with another major injury blow at the worst time in the shape of Ederson, City’s number one goalkeeper.

Claudio Bravo is an excellent shot stopper but Liverpool will notice how he got sent off against Atalanta just after coming on and there’s another defensive concern if Rodri, who had been deputising at centre back, cannot play today despite City giving him every chance.

That said, they haven’t scored the most goals in the league for nothing and Guardiola has two of the best frontmen in the league with Sergio Aguero (nine Premier League goals this season) Raheem Sterling (seven Premier League goals this season) playing as a two.

Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bryune can unlock any defence and it will be fascinating to see if Riyad Mahrez can find any space out wide.

It is slightly surprising to see that Liverpool are the bigger of the two sides given their strong home record against Manchester City, who haven’t won at Anfield since a Nicolas Anelka double in 2003. Jurgen Klopp also has a strong record against Pep Guardiola – he’s led his Liverpool side to two Anfield wins against Guardiola’s City and two draws here – and Liverpool are one of few sides that will have no fear of taking on the men in blue.

Much will depend on Guardiola’s approach. Last season he chose to sit deep and there were just 13 shots in a game that should have been decided by Riyad Mahez’s missed penalty – indeed the expected-goals rating was 0.43-0.31 before that.

Guardiola may choose to do the same again, but he had his first choice defensive setup there and Liverpool will surely choose to put pressure on whatever defensive combination plays today.

Liverpool have had their own defensive problems this season. They haven’t kept a clean sheet at home this season and they haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last eight games – City will surely hope to get on the scoresheet. It took late goals to overcome Leicester and Tottenham here. It could be that if either side wins, the margin is narrow, and the 1-1 draw – the final score in the Community Shield earlier – could be worth having onside too.

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