Following the ever-dreary international break, the Premier League returns with a bang this weekend, throwing up an almighty clash for Saturday’s early kickoff – Manchester City vs Liverpool.
Both clubs will expect to be battling it out in the upper echelons of the Premier League table this season but it’s also a fixture laced in curious subplots, most notably Jurgen Klopp’s impressive record against Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s run of four wins from their last five meetings with City in the top flight.
So, ahead of what looks set to be another enthralling clash between two attacking sides often criticised for porous defences, here’s everything you need to know pre-kickoff…
Considering Manchester City weren’t exactly on a level playing field with Liverpool for much of the Premier League era, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Reds have dominated this fixture over the last 25 years, scoring 20 more goals than the Citizens, claiming 11 more wins and seeing just one red card compared to City’s five. However, what’s more interesting is how the Sheik takeover hasn’t affected the balance of power all that much; as previously mentioned, Liverpool have beaten City four times from their last five Premier League clashes, the only exception being a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium last season. If there’s a silver lining for City, though, it’s Liverpool’s lesser win rate away from home.
More bad news for City unfortunately, especially in light of the spate of controversial refereeing decisions that have gone against them in recent weeks – namely double-bookings for Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling. Jonathan Moss ranked fifth for yellow cards per match throughout the Premier League last season and eighth for fouls per game, two fronts City have fared far higher on than Liverpool so far this season. The other concern is the sheer number of games Moss officiated last term that ended in draws, a staggering 53%.
Manchester City’s only certain absence this weekend is perhaps the most predictable – ever-crocked captain Vincent Kompany. The Citizens always seem more organised, resilient and aggressive when the skipper is in the side so his absence will be a big loss to Guardiola, especially considering how dangerous Liverpool have proved on the counter-attack already this season through Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. That will likely force Guardiola to line up his side in some variation of 4-3-3, assuming he won’t trust Eliaquim Mangala to step in, and creates the added dilemma of whether Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero can both start.
Liverpool, meanwhile, face two long-term absences heading into Saturday’s game, midfielder Adam Lallana and defender Nathaniel Clyne. However, Jurgen Klopp has been without both all season so it won’t affect his team selection too much – in fact, we expect the Reds boss to stick with the starting XI that wreaked absolute havoc against Arsenal prior to the international break. The only exceptions might come on the defensive flanks, where Klopp has Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson as alternatives on the right and left respectively. Philippe Coutinho has already been ruled out of this one, although not officially injured, by the Anfield boss.