PREVIEW | Manchester City v Liverpool (Premier League)

PÁDRAIG O’CALLAGHAN brings recent form, team news and predictions ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

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Liverpool travel to the Etihad Stadium as champions on Thursday evening, as they look to add to Manchester City’s woes and give them a reminder why the Reds are the Premier League’s best side by a distance.

Both sets of results last week saw Liverpool crowned champions. The Reds ran out 4-0 winners against Crystal Palace in a dominant performance — this win meant City could not slip up in their remaining eight games.

They needed just the one game to drop points, though, as Chelsea defeated the Citizens 2-1 which boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League and put City out of mathematical contention for the title.

Recent form

Following a disappointing draw at Everton, Liverpool turned up the style as they demolished Crystal Palace in a 4-0 rout which ultimately secured the title. Before kick-off, the Reds knew that a win would see them close to within two points of the League, leaving closest rivals Manchester City with no room to slip up.


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Liverpool got the three points they needed and did so emphatically. The match was closely contested in the opening stages, but an early substitution saw Wilfred Zaha go off with injury. Once the Ivorian exited, the away side’s attacking intent went with him.

Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring with a spectacular fashion, his free-kick found the top corner from 25 yards which started the ball rolling. A tidy finish from Salah just before half-time all but secured the win.

Fabinho made it 3-0 thanks to his strike from 30 yards before Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané combined to cut through Palace which saw the latter make it 4-0. Such was Liverpool’s dominance that if they scored eight no-one would have batted an eyelid.

The League was secured the following night as Manchester City failed to beat Chelsea which sent Liverpool fans all over the world into delirium. Christian Pulisic opened the scoring with a wonderful solo effort following a defensive error. The American nipped in front of Benjamin Mendy and sprinted through on goal, he then showed great composure and caressed the ball into the bottom corner.

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Kevin de Bruyne levelled the scoring with a free-kick of his own which swung the pendulum in City’s favour. Pep Guardiola’s side were dominant from the restart; a quick break saw Sterling through on goal but failed to take advantage with his effort coming back off the post.

Chelsea then grew back into the game, Pulisic had the opportunity to restore Chelsea’s lead, but after rounding the ‘keeper his weak effort was stopped on the line by Kyle Walker. A second goal-mouth scramble just moments later saw Pulisic denied again by Ederson before Fernandinho stopped Tammy Abraham’s effort on the line with his hand.

After consultation with VAR, City were reduced to ten men and Chelsea had a chance to win it to boost their chances of a top four finish and gift Liverpool the title. Willian did the business, sending his Brazilian counterpart the wrong way.

Team news

Pep Guardiola is without four of his first team players for the match. Sergio Agüero and John Stones are injured, Fernandinho is suspended and Leroy Sané is inching closer to a transfer to Bayern Munich.

They also played a strong team in the FA Cup at the weekend, so a few changes could be made to the starting line-up.

Ederson will start in goal, with a possible quartet of Kyle Walker, Nicolás Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko in front of him – though João Cancelo is also in contention.

Rodri is in contention to be the deepest of the three midfielders, while the superb Kevin de Bruyne will likely be partnered by İlkay Gündoğan in the centre of the park.

With limited attacking options available, Gabriel Jesus will likely be flanked by Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva, although Riyad Mahrez could start in any of their places.

Joël Matip has been ruled out for the rest of the season so is unavailable for selection, while James Milner has only just returned to training so is unlikely to make an appearance here.

With the Premier League already wrapped up Jürgen Klopp may be tempted to make a handful of changes in future matches, though I expect he will want to make a statement of intent and try to set a record points total for a single season.

Alisson Becker will be hoping to keep another clean sheet which would put him in a great position to claim a consecutive Golden Glove award, despite missing part of the season with injury. The back four ahead of him will likely be Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will both be chomping at the bit to start here, but Klopp has shown a preference for the tried and tested route against opponents like this. With that in mind, expect to see a starting midfield trio of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum.

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The usual front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané should start, and with Man City’s defence showing its frailties once again at Chelsea last week they could have a field day.

Prediction

Jürgen Klopp mentioned in interviews on the night they won the title that he wanted his side to be ruthless. They have had a week to prepare for this game and his favoured eleven are all available for selection.

With Manchester City missing some of their most important players, Liverpool have an opportunity to really emphasise their dominance over City this season. Agüero always seems to score against the Reds at the Etihad and Sané is a remarkable player who always causes problems for our defence, but of course neither of them are available.

Liverpool will hope to win quite comfortably as they begin their tour of the country as reigning champions. The guard of honour will be rather enjoyable too…

Predicted final score: Manchester City 1-3 Liverpool


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