Liverpool host Man City at Anfield in dire form at home and with any thoughts of retaining the title on the back burner for now. Jurgen Klopp has to find solutions to several problem positions against a Man City side on a 13 match winning run and who have conceded just four goals in their last 20 matches in all competitions. Rarely have Man City arrived to face Liverpool away as such big favourites in recent years.
Liverpool are having a bizarre post-title season. With a wrath of injuries, big dips in form from their attackers and issues breaking down deep defences, they are currently struggling to build up momentum.
They went on a five match winless run in the league where they only managed to score once and were beaten 1-0 at Southampton and 1-0 at home to Burnley. Consecutive 3-1 wins on the road against Tottenham and West Ham seem to indicate a return to their best. However, they lost 1-0 at Anfield to Brighton in their last match and barely created anything in attack.
Without fans at Anfield, their results are suffering whilst they look more able to attack with the extra space afforded to them in away matches.
Liverpool Team News
Klopp has a mess to deal with due to constant injuries and illness with the squad. Alisson is doubtful in goal after feeling sick prior to the Brighton match and all of Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are out long term at the back. Fabinho is nearing a return and could play alongside Jordan Henderson in defence. The alternatives are the slow Nat Phillips or throwing one of their new centre backs, Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak into the deep end.
Sadio Mane is a major doubt in attack so Klopp will have to find a solution there whilst James Milner has played the last three matches in seven days so maybe Curtis Jones is recalled in midfield for his dynamism. The latter could also play in the front three to really stiffen the side in the engine room by playing narrow.
Of late, The Reds are a mess tactically. Without pace at the back, they have to defend deeper. This makes a big hole in midfield and stifles their pressing game. Without Mane, Liverpool have two many players going towards the ball and only Mohamed Salah to make runs in-behind.
For this match, Klopp may have no choice but to sit deep to protect his makeshift defensive line and then look to hit Salah on the counter attack. In their current form, Liverpool would probably bite your hand off for a point if offered it right now.
Man City Form
City’s form is imperious. They are 20 matches unbeaten in all competitions and have won 13 on the bounce. They’ve conceded just four goals in that time with 16 clean sheets. The signing of Ruben Dias has been a game-changer for them at the back.
Since drawing 1-1 at home to West Brom in December, Pep Guardiola’s side have won nine matches in a row with eight clean sheets. A high possession, lower intensity game has kept them fresh and many recent matches have seen the side do just enough so as not to waste energy.
Their last two matches saw a 1-0 win versus Sheffield United and then a 2-0 win at Burnley. Gabriel Jesus scored in both matches.
Man City Team News
Guardiola has three injuries to deal with as Sergio Aguero continues to slowly return from injury and illness, Kevin De Bruyne is out and Nathan Ake is still struggling. That City have not missed the former pair in recent matches shows the depth and quality they possess.
For this match, Aymeric Laporte could play on the left of the defence (a back four which becomes a back three in possession) and Joao Cancelo should continue his sublime form as an inverted right back. In attack, it is perhaps most likely that Gabriel Jesus is left out and a false nine is used. That could be Bernardo Silva or Phil Foden. Expected high and wide wingers and midfielders arriving into scoring positions from deep.
Man Utd Motivation
City have a seven point lead over Liverpool with a game in hand. They don’t need to win this match but they can’t lose and allow Klopp’s team back into the title race. A relatively careful display is expected with lots of possession to control the game but also as a way of defending with the ball.
Don’t expect to see City committing many men forward and opening themselves up to counters nor chasing the game in a crazy way if they trail or if the scores are level.
City have won 13 matches in a row (20 unbeaten – seven draws)
City have kept 16 clean sheets in their last 20 matches
Man City have won 9 PL matches in a row, 8 of them to zero
City have seen under 2.5 goals in 7 of their last 9 away PL matches
The Reds are have won 2 of their last 8 PL matches
Liverpool have failed to score in 5 of their last 8 PL matches
Liverpool are winless in 4 home PL matches (L2, D2)
Liverpool have failed to score in their last 3 home PL matches
City are big favourites and the stats suggest a win with a clean against a Liverpool side who can’t score goals or win at Anfield right now. An alternative is a non-event of a match where both sides play cautiously and are happy to shake hands on a draw.