Manchester City face one of their most difficult tests of the season so far as they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool. There has been a lot of talk about the club going through the season unbeaten and becoming only the second team to do so during the Premier League era. Pep Guardiola won’t be focused on that record at this stage, but it will be at the centre of discussions for the media at the game. Both sides have excellent attacks, which should make for a great watch for the neutral.
The home side will be looking to pick up a positive result as they try to move on from the Philippe Coutinho sale. The Brazilian international has finally joined Barcelona and it will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klopp lines-up this weekend. Adam Lallana is the favourite to take the advanced midfield role and there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform if he does start on Sunday. The addition of Virgil van Dijk to their Premier League squad will make them stronger at the back and he will get another opportunity to impress against the league leaders.
Guardiola has mastered the Premier League and is now looking by far and beyond the best manager in the division. He had received criticism during his first season, but he needed time to adapt and build his team. City’s form this season has been remarkable and if his team can maintain their consistency, they could soon start to match his Barcelona side in terms of achievement. The Alexis Sanchez saga continues to rumble on in the background, but local rivals Manchester United have taken the ascendency in the race to sign the Chilean. Although City don’t have a huge need to sign the Arsenal forward, it would be a blow if they were to miss out on him.
Liverpool have scored 50 Premier League goals at an average of more than two per game. The only team have scored more are Manchester City
Manchester City have shown their fight in their last two matches as they have come from behind the beat Burnley and Bristol City. This has helped put them in a strong position in the cup competitions.
Every single Liverpool player will be expected to step up in the absence of Philippe Coutinho. His fellow countryman has been one of the team’s standout players this season. Although the press prefers to focus on the dynamism of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Firmino has showed an impressive consistency and he is a crucial part of how the team play. He is relentless in his defensive contribution as he presses high up the pitch and his distribution in attack is superb. Manchester City will be a difficult team to beat, but the Reds are one of the few teams that can aspire to go toe-to-toe with them. Their Brazilian attacker will be very important on Saturday, both in and out of possession and he will be looking to add to his total of nine goals and four assists.
The Belgian international has taken another step forward since Pep Guardiola took over as manager. He has married class with consistency and he is now arguably the best player in the Premier League. There will be others that disagree with that, but he has the opportunity to prove it against Liverpool this weekend. Against teams that play a defensive style, De Bruyne can struggle to influence the game as he isn’t given room to manoeuvre and the spaces available to him are limited. However, this match is likely to be open and that will play into the hands of the midfielder. His vision and ability to pick a pass mark him as one of the most creative players in Europe. If there is one player that Liverpool need to keep quiet in order to win the game, it is De Bruyne.
Mohamed Salah is expected to be fit to start on Saturday, despite a recent knock. Daniel Sturridge faces a battle to be passed fit, although he is unlikely to feature regardless of his availability. Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Clyne remain on the treatment table.
Vincent Kompany could be back to feature for the visitors, but Pep Guardiola may be hesitant to throw him back into the squad for such a big game. Meanwhile, Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy and Phil Foden are certainties to miss out on the trip to Anfield.
This has the potential to be match of the season and it will certainly be the pick of the matches this weekend. Both teams like to play offensive football and that should mean chances are created at both ends. It is difficult to see Manchester City losing this season as they have looked so formidable up to this point. In recent weeks, they have been less dominant, but they continue to win matches and that does create a sense of invincibility. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have had some great battles in the past. This will be a fixture that City are wary of. It could end in any result, but an entertaining score draw seems most likely.