On New Year’s Eve, Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield in a game of two serious title contenders. This match will pit second verses third in the table with only a point separating the two teams. Both will see this as must win though, as a loss could see the loser cut adrift from the title race, with Chelsea already six and seven points ahead of them respectively.
After a 4-1 comeback victory over Stoke City on the 27th, Liverpool will take on City a mere two days later and Sunderland less than 48 hours after that. Jurgen Klopp has bemoaned England’s Christmas schedule saying he “cannot believe” having a game less than 48 hours after another game. Nevertheless he’ll hope his Liverpool juggernaut will be able to pull through and continue to score in bunches.
After their back to back losses to Chelsea and Leicester City, Manchester City have rebounded lately with three consecutive wins, including a 2-1 win over Arsenal. After conceding seven times in their two defeats, they conceded only once in their three wins. City’s defence has been a bit hit and miss this season, but they have the joint fifth best defensive record in the league, which isn’t too bad, and have been able to compensate by outscoring their opponents, with the joint second best scoring record in the league.
Klopp had targeted this game as an early return date for Philippe Coutinho, but that seems to have been too early with Klopp ruling him out of this match saying “the City game is for sure too early for him.” Liverpool will also continue to be without Joel Matip as he continues to recover from his own ankle injury. Along with those two, Danny Ings will also be out with a long term injury.
John Stones is a doubt for the match at Anfield after he tweaked his knee against Hull City on Boxing Day. This match will come too early for fellow City centre-back Vincent Kompany as he continues to recover from his latest injury. Illkay Gundogan will also be kept out due to the long term knee injury he picked up against Watford. Sergio Aguero will make his comeback after his four game suspension ended against Hull City.
Liverpool: Sadio Mane
After his £34m move to Anfield in the summer, Sadio Mane has established himself as a star this season with his performances under Klopp. He has already bagged eight goals and assisted four more and has become impossible for Klopp to drop. Liverpool are reportedly already looking for a way to replace him when he departs for the African Cup of Nations in January. Mane gives Liverpool pace and explosiveness they often missed last season, something they will look to use to exploit Manchester City’s shaky defence.
Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City are full of attacking weapons, but one of the best this season has been Kevin De Bruyne. He has been on a bit of a goal drought, with his last Premier League goal coming in September against Bournemouth, but he has still been productive since then with seven assists in that time. De Bruyne is one of the most talented players in the league and possesses the ability to rip a defence open with ease, something he’ll look to display against Liverpool’s vulnerable defence.
Liverpool have been able to keep getting good results in the absence of Coutinho, but their performance levels have dropped a bit, something that could show against City. This match will likely be decided by a battle between control and chaos. Pep Guardiola’s City team will look to control the game and suffocate Liverpool like they did against Arsenal a few weeks ago. Liverpool will hope Klopp’s brand of organised chaos will be able to keep City from establishing control and rip their vulnerable defence apart.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw