In the recent seasons few fixtures have impacted the title race and the final outcome of the season as much as a Liverpool vs Manchester City game. We will get the latest instalment of this rivalry on Sunday when the league leaders visit the Champions. They will be aiming to stretch their lead at the top of the table to 10 points over the Reds. Liverpool meanwhile have to turn their home form around if they want to have any hope of catching up with Leicester, Manchester United and City, who are all ahead of them.
When the Reds beat Tottenham and Westham away from home in two consecutive games, many pundits and all their fans thought that the champions were back in the groove. But in their last game, Liverpool reverted back to the form that has seen them go 348 minutes without scoring at home. Brighton did not just sit back and grabbed that lone chance that fell to them. Brighton had more shots and more shots on target than Liverpool in their last game on Wednesday night. They made more of their 36.6% possession and just 4 successful passes into the penalty area. After going 68 games without a loss at home, the Reds have lost two in succession and Klopp will be desperate to stop that streak.
If the Champions are stuttering at the wrong moments, the challengers are peaking at the right ones. Manchester City had a slightly slow start to the season by their own standards but have now hit their stride. Their last loss in the league came in November and their last draw was in December. Since that 1-1 draw at home against West Brom, they have won 13 on the trot in all competitions and have climbed to the top of the league table ahead of their newly noisy neighbors. City have amassed 47 points after 21 games, three more than United who have played a game more. Pep Guardiola knows he has a great chance of winning back the league title this season but he will want to ensure it at the earliest by putting some distance between his side and the chasing pack. Sunday will be a great opportunity to do exactly that.
- Liverpool have an incredibly strong home league record against City. They have lost only one of their last 29 home league matches against the Citizens (W19 D9), a 2-1 defeat in May 2003. This fixture also does not favor the away side too much, with the visiting side winning just one of the last 24 league meetings between these two teams.
- But Manchester City fancy themselves when they are visiting the reigning champions in any season. They have won four of their last five league visits to the Premier League reigning champions (L1), beating United in 2011/12 and 2013/14 and Chelsea in 2015/16 and 2017/18. However, they have never won at Anfield when Liverpool have been the reigning top-flight champions.
- If it were not for Liverpool’s current home form, one would have to be brave to predict their loss on Sunday. Liverpool have not lost three matches at home in a league competition since September 1963. They have not lost three home league matches without scoring a single goal in last 100 years. But they have lost their last two home league games and are goal-less in the last three (348 minutes).
- Manchester City are back to their title winning form. They have won each of their last 13 games in all competitions. A win at Anfield will see them equal the record for an English top-flight club, set by Preston in January 1892 and Arsenal in November 1987.
- City’s form is fueled by their excellent defensive record. They have conceded just 13 goals in 21 Premier League games this season, keeping a clean sheet in each of their last six. They have never previously kept seven consecutive clean sheet in the competition.
Mohammed Salah has scored 5 goals and assisted two against Manchester City in 10 appearances in all competitions. He does not favor City as much as West Ham and Tottenham but they are still right up there in some of his favorite opponents. With 15 goals so far this season, he leads the scoring charts in the league. His xG90 of 0.59 and xA90 of 0.19 is not anywhere near his best but it still indicates that he has more than 75% chance of contributing a goal if he plays for 90 minutes. For Liverpool to return to winning ways at home, Salah must find his goal-scoring touch at Anfield again.
Manchester City are in such imperious form that every single player in the team looks like a world beater. But among those too Ilkay Gundogan is at a different level this season. Statistically, already this is his best season in terms of goal scoring – he has scored 7 already so far, more than the 6 he scored when City last won the league. He also has an assist to his name. His xG90 of 0.30 and xA90 of 0.20 indicate a 50% chance of him contributing a goal in 90 minutes. However, his value also comes from his progressive play in the midfield. His xGBuildup90 (total xG resulting from all his touches other than shots and key passes) is 0.42. This means that without taking any attacking action he is still extremely productive in getting the ball to the right man up front. He has however scored only once against the Reds. Guardiola will certainly hope that Gundogan can make a mark against his ex-boss Klopp once again.
For Liverpool, the entire first-choice central defence will not feature this season. But at the front, Diogo Jota has returned to individual training. However, Klopp confirmed that he will not be available for at least a couple of weeks. Klopp will however hope that Alisson, Fabinho, and Mane are back to face City. He might also replace Milner with Oxlade-Chamberlain if Henderson is required at the back. But Klopp will want that at least once one of Ozan Kabak or Ben Davies – Liverpool’s deadline day signings. The expected line up: Alisson; Trent Alexander Arnold, Henderson, Fabinho, Robertson: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
For City, Aguero remains sidelined with COVID-19. Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake are also not expected back. Guardiola will likely go with the back three of Laporte, Dias and Stones. Joao Cancelo is also likely to start. The expected line up: Ederson; Stones, Dias, Laporte; Cancelo, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Zinchenko; Foden, Silva, Sterling.
Manchester City were third in the 2018-19 season and were trailing Liverpool by 7 points in January when they beat Liverpool 2-1 at home and went on to win the title. Liverpool are trailing City by seven points and are hosting City at home. The parallelism however might end on Sunday as given both teams’ current form, this is City’s best chance to beat Liverpool at Anfield and they are very likely to take it.
Liverpool 1 – 3 Manchester City