Defending champions Manchester City head to Anfield to take on season leaders Liverpool on Sunday in the Premier League. The rivalry between both clubs has intensified in recent years – with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool being the main competitor to the Citizens’ domination of domestic football in England.
With the rise of Manchester United and Chelsea as title contenders this season, every point counts for both sides and the contest on Sunday would determine who would have the momentum heading into mid-season.
Here’s our preview of Sunday’s Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola has managed to make an impressive start to the season despite facing troubles in the transfer market – winning four of their opening six fixtures and placing his club comfortably in the second spot in the table.
Against the traditional big-six clubs, the Citizens had mixed results this season. They lost the opening fixture to Tottenham 1-0, regrouping in time to crush an out-of-form Arsenal 5-0.
But the best performance was reserved for the game against Chelsea when Pep Guardiola unleashed his capacity to learn from mistakes to register his first victory against Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival.
Despite being thrashed by a Messi-led Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League mid-week, the Citizens would head into the fixture with confidence. Manchester City managed to both dominate possession and attack the goalposts more number of times, but their failure to convert the shots is a potential cause of concern.
The lack of a proper No.9 – a role that Harry Kane would have fulfilled perfectly – is haunting Pep Guardiola. The loss of Sergio Aguero to Barcelona and Gabriel Jesus’ struggles as a centre-forward are costing the team goals especially with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva flanking the centre quite effectively.
There are no fresh injury concerns for Pep Guardiola and he is expected to field the same starting XI that took the stage on Wednesday. Gabriel Jesus had made way for Riyad Mahrez in the PSG fixture but is expected to start in his usual role.
Pep Guardiola will stick to his high-press 4-3-3 tactics that have worked for him despite the absence of a striker, with Sterling and Bernardo Silva doing most of the heavy lifting.
After a less than ideal season last year and a silent transfer window, expectations were low at Anfield. With Chelsea and Manchester United hiring superstars and Pep Guardiola fine-tuning his already perfect team, it looked like Liverpool’s glory days were once again behind them.
But Jurgen Klopp has surprised critics and fans alike with a perfect start to the season as the Reds are the only team yet to be defeated in the league. The Reds have scored 15 goals so far in their six games – the highest of any club, led by their talisman Mohamed Salah and with contributions from the superb Sadio Mane.
But between those headlines lies defects in the team, which came to the fore in their only ‘big-six’ encounter of the season against arch-rivals Chelsea.
A 3-3 hard-fought draw against newly-promoted Brentford will further dent their momentum in a season where every point will count towards deciding the champion.
A 5-1 victory over Porto in the Champions League – with Salah, Mane and Robert Firmino all scoring – will give a boost to their overall confidence. But a high-pressing Manchester City are a much-different beast to tackle.
Harvey Elliott is set to miss the next few months after he was injured in the match against Leeds United. The fitness of Trent Alexander-Arnold is the main concern for Jurgen Klopp and he will be hoping that the right-back will be fit for the crucial fixture.
Ilkay Gundogan, who scored twice during his last trip to Anfield, will miss Sunday’s game due to injury. Like City, Liverpool are also likely to stick to their tried and tested 4-3-3 structure.
HEAD TO HEAD
The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City might not be as famous as the one the Reds have with United, but it is nevertheless a high-profile one with both clubs being Premier League champions in recent years.
Of the 105 fixtures held between both clubs so far, Liverpool have come out victorious on 105 occasions while losing 58.
In recent years, the results have been more competitive – with the Citizens winning three of the past five meetings. Their latest trip to Anfield ended with a 4-1 drubbing of the hosts – with Ilkay Gundogan scoring twice, and Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden piling on Liverpool’s misery.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Despite a perfect start to the season, there are defects in Liverpool’s defences. Manchester City might have lost to Paris Saint-Germain despite being the better side, but Pep Guardiola is unlikely to commit the same mistake twice.
The absence of a specialist striker haunts the Citizens, but the trio of Sterling, Jesus, and Silva are more than capable of scoring goals.
Liverpool have the tough task of containing the high-pressing trio while counter-attacking and the encounter will likely decide which side has the potential to win the season.
Expect a Manchester City win with goals from both sides.
Manchester City Predicted XI: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling
Liverpool Predicted XI: Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino
When: Sunday, 3 October 2021, 9:00 PM IST
Where: Anfield, Liverpool.
Where to Watch: All Premier League fixtures will be featured on Disney+ Hotstar. Select matches will be telecasted live on Star Sports and Star Sports Select Channels.