Liverpool and Manchester City represent the headline act in the Premier League this weekend, with the two sides set to meet at Anfield in Sunday’s 4pm kickoff. The Citizens are yet to lose a top flight fixture so far this term, dropping just four points in total, but Liverpool will certainly fancy their chances of ending that unbeaten run, especially while backed by a vibrant home support.
So, can Jurgen Klopp inspire a Premier League first for 2017/18, or will it be another onslaught masterminded by Pep Guardiola? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know ahead of the weekend’s biggest clash…
Incredibly, Manchester City have only ever won a single Premier League fixture at Anfield – a 2-1 back in 2003 courtesy of a Nicolas Anelka brace – and have lost during their last four visits in the top flight.
While their overall Premier League record against Liverpool is somewhat more flattering, with eight wins at all venues, the Reds still come out on top in terms of victories, goals scored and clean sheets from their 41 encounters.
Red cards have been a problem for Liverpool though, as we saw earlier this season when Sadio Mane was sent off in the reverse fixture, and there have been almost as many draws, 15, as Liverpool wins. The real positive for the neutrals, however, is how few times this fixture has ended goalless – it’s happened just three times in the Premier League and we’re still awaiting a first at Anfield. Hopefully it won’t be this Sunday.
Andre Marriner is without a doubt the most lenient referee in the Premier League, ranking even lower out of the division’s 18 referees than he did last season for fouls, penalties and yellow cards per game.
While Liverpool may look upon that favourably because they’ll have more licence to counteract Manchester City’s fine football with physicality and aggressive challenges, the paradoxical downside is that Marriner’s approach plays straight into Pep Guardiola’s hands.
The City boss will want as few breaks in play as possible so his side can grind down the opposition with their meticulous passing game and the fewer fouls Marriner awards, the longer Liverpool will have to cope without time to reorganise and catch their breath. That could well prove to be a decisive factor on Sunday.
Liverpool enter the post-Coutinho era without any other new concerns in terms of squad strength. Mohamed Salah looks set to return to action this weekend after a short stint on the sidelines and Alberto Moreno could be available as well – although he seems most likely to take a spot on the bench if anything – but captain Jordan Henderson hasn’t recovered in time and Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee.
Accordingly, Liverpool are expected to field a front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane for the first time in 2018, while James Milner could keep his place in central midfield alongside Emre Can after netting a penalty against Everton in the FA Cup.
While Pep Guardiola has provided positive news in regards to Gabriel Jesus’ progress, he’s also revealed Sunday’s game will come too soon for ever-crocked skipper Vincent Kompany.
That will almost certainly see John Stones reunited with Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of defence after Eliaquim Mangala started ahead of the latter against Bristol City in midweek, while Kyle Walker should return to the starting line-up as well.
Sergio Aguero is set to come back into the starting XI to spearhead the attack – having been used from the bench in the League Cup – with Raheem Sterling moving out wide. City’s midfield picks itself these days when everybody is fit; Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva have proved a deadly combination.
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