Liverpool welcome title rivals Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday as they look to open up a huge nine-point lead heading into the international break.
The Reds maintained their unbeaten record in the league last week as two late goals saw them claim an important three points at Aston Villa. For long periods of the game it looked as if it was going to be a day were nothing fell for Liverpool, but in the end their relentlessness paid off.
Man City also came from behind in their match against Southampton. An early goal scored by James Ward-Prowse gave the away side an unlikely lead, but Sergio Agüero levelled for the Champions 20 minutes from time, before Kyle Walker capitalised on a goalkeeping error to give the Citizens the win.
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Despite their results, Liverpool have not been performing up to expectations in recent weeks. That could be due to the level of the opposition we have been playing. Since our win over Newcastle we have played three of the big six along with Leicester City, who sit third, Sheffield United, sixth, and Aston Villa who are certainly no pushovers.
Over the past three games, Liverpool have found themselves behind at half-time. Despite the scoreline, they stuck to the game plane and found the net late on in each game. An 85th-minute goal from Adam Lallana saw them share the points at Old Trafford, while goals in the 75th and 95th minutes against Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively saw Liverpool gain seven points from losing positions. Add this to another late win against Leicester City.
Coming from behind is a big task no matter how good your team are, but Jürgen Klopp and his team seem to make light work of it time and time again. Since their loss to Man City at the start of the year, the Reds have found themselves behind seven times and have won six. Compare that to Man City who have won only once in the six games which they have been behind in since the start of last season.
They have had an easier set of fixtures compared to Liverpool. They have played just one team from the big six so far and the highest placed team they have played — Bournemouth — sit in seventh. Sunday marks the start of a very tough schedule where they face the rest of the big six as well along with tough fixtures away from home.
Their two losses this season have come against Wolves and Norwich City, two teams who attack no matter who you are. Both losses saw them concede goals from counter attacks which we know Liverpool are good at. Sadio Mané and Mo Salah have similar speeds to Adama Traoré, the Wolves winger who scored twice late on after out-pacing a City team who set up with a high defensive line.
Joël Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri are the players missing from Jurgen Klopp’s squad. The duo are expected to be out long term with muscular injuries. Much of the Liverpool team selects itself with the midfield being the talking point on social media throughout the week.
Alisson will start in goal shielded by Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold could be Liverpool’s most important players on Sunday, defending against a tricky pair of wingers while also being responsible for much of Liverpool’s creativity.
Jordan Henderson has been in a rotten run of form for a few weeks now, and based on his form he should be nowhere near the starting line-up. An obvious replacement would be the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has four goals in as many appearances. Our No.15 will certainly prove to be a threat from outside the box, but the intensity could be too much for him and he may be a better option off the bench.
Mohamed Salah, like Henderson, has not performed well of late. The Egyptian hasn’t scored from open play on the league in almost two months. That being said he is far too good a player to be dropped in our most important game of the season.
Manchester City have quite a long injury list. Leroy Sané, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko are all ruled out of the tie. Ederson, David Silva and Rodri are all doubts and are not expected to make the squad. Despite the injury list our rivals can still field a world-class XI.
Claudio Bravo is prone to the odd error, he is not the fastest off his line and his distribution isn’t as good as Ederson’s. The Brazilian goalkeeper will be a big miss for Pep Guardiola if he fails a late fitness test, though Bravo was man of the match in the Community Shield in August.
Like the goalkeeper, a makeshift defensive line doesn’t fill the rest of the team with confidence. John Stones and Benjamin Mendy can be erratic at times while Fernandinho is slow off the mark. Kyle Walker will likely return to right-back after his stint as a goalkeeper in midweek.
Pep Guardiola’s options improve further up the pitch. İlkay Gündoğan is well able to play the deep midfield role while Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva are two of the best midfielders in the country. Similarly to the Champions League clash between the two sides in 2018, a player must be close to De Bruyne at all times and try to limit his time on the ball.
Sergio Agüero has failed to score at Anfield during his time in England. The striker has an exceptional record at the Etihad against us but never looks his usual self when playing away at Liverpool. Let’s hope this stays the same.
Last season the title was decided in the games between the two clubs. City picked up four points which saw them win the league by a point. They settled for a draw at Anfield last season due to the two clubs being within a point or two of each other, but would have had all three had Mahrez not skied his late penalty.
This season they find themselves six points behind having played an easier set of fixtures. City need to win — a draw isn’t good enough due to a tough run of fixtures over Christmas. With their injuries I can’t see them picking up three points.
Anfield will be a cauldron of noise come kick off. The Citizens have a couple of players who buckle under an intense atmosphere, and they could well do so again here.
I think Liverpool will win on Sunday. They will up their game as so much is at stake. Sadio Mané has been in top form and could be the match-winner here once again.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester City