Liverpool travel to the Etihad this Sunday afternoon, in perhaps the most intriguing match of the season so far. A mere 1 point separates the two sides, with the home team currently sitting top of the Premier League.
With both sides looking to successfully complete their respective Champions League ties next Tuesday, it will be interesting to see how each team lines up. Liverpool have a strong lead leading into their second leg home tie (against Benfica), whilst Pep’s City have a tricky 1-0 advantage to see through in Madrid. Logic suggests Klopp has the ability to go full strength on Sunday, whilst City may well be forced to hold one or two players back.
City are still without Ruben Dias, Benjamin Mendy and Cole Palmer. This game could well see Jack Grealish starting, with Phil Foden almost certainly coming back into the team. The midfield and defence should be that which started last Tuesday, with the likely changes happening up top.
Liverpool have no injuries of note, and come into the game with some decisions to make. Joel Matip will surely return in place of Ibrahima Konate, with the rest of the back line at full strength. Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho are certain starters, with Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson vying for the third midfield spot.
Upfront poses some obvious questions for Klopp, with his five starting calibre forwards all keen to start. The sense is that Roberto Firmino will play the false nine role, with his pressing a key facet against a possession heavy side. The flanks could really be any of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, and the electric Luis Diaz. Mo hasn’t been in the best post AFCON form, however, the space that could be afforded against Cancelo, should see him start. Mane and Diaz would then appear to be the main rivals on the left, and if current form carried, then Diaz starts. Jota offers real potency from the bench, and that should be his role this weekend.
This game could well be a title decider, and will give immense momentum if either team were to grab all three points. Klopp versus Pep is undoubtedly the biggest battle, and how each coach performs (both in selection and in game management) will surely decide this affair.
A win for the reds would make this the title race all third parties crave, and the forthcoming European games could well play a factor in the players mentalities. City don’t have to win on Sunday, but cannot lose Tuesday, and that mindset could make Sunday afternoon a nervy thing for the reigning Champions.
Space will be awarded at spells, and there will almost certainly be some sensational football on view, but it is Liverpool’s fearsome set pieces, which could inevitably be the deciding factor. City are brilliant, but have more pressure on them at this moment. Liverpool have been chasing all season, and the moment may well suit their own driven ways.
This game promises to be box office & must see, and could be one for the ages. The countdown is well and truly on, and after 90 minutes, it could give some clarity as to who will be the likely League winners this term.
Player to watch – Trent Alexander-Arnold
Manchester City 1 – 2 Liverpool