Man City host Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League. City are eight games unbeaten across league and cup after losing 5-2 to Leicester City. Liverpool have allayed fears about their prospects this season without Virgil Van Dijk by winning five games in a row. This is an early clash of the two main title challengers and should throw up another epic battle between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
Man City Form
Since losing 5-2 to Leicester City in their second league match of the season, Man City have gone eight games unbeaten. However, they have scored three goals in each of their four cup games during that run and just four goals in their four league games as opponents have sat off and defended in numbers. That run has included two 1-1 draws away from home at Leeds United and West Ham and two 1-0 victories over Arsenal and Sheffield United.
In their last match, City started like a house on fire against Olympiakos with Ferran Torres scoring but their opponents grew into the game and the result was only put to bed after late goals by Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo in the final 10 minutes for a 3-0 victory.
Man City Team News
Man City are still expected to be without Sergio Aguero up front, Benjamin Mendy at left-back and Fernandinho in midfield. Ferran Torres has been playing as a centre forward and has scored in all three of his appearances there in the Champions League. Gabriel Jesus returned from injury to score against Olympiakos in midweek too. Rodri and Aymeric Laporte are both pushing for returns to the starting XI for this match.
Man City Motivation
City will play to win this game but Pep Guardiola has often tinkered with his shape against Liverpool in the past to protect against transitions and counter-attacks and he could go with a double pivot in front of the defence or Nathan Aké at left-back to build up and have a spare man back to defend counters.
Since Virgil Van Dijk picked up a serious injury, Liverpool have won five games in a row, keeping clean sheets away to Ajax and Atalanta and at home to Midtjylland.
In their last match, they thrashed Atalanta 5-0 in Bergamo with Diego Jota netting a hattrick and Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scoring one each. The performance of young players like Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams was a real highlight.
Liverpool Team News
The big question mark for Liverpool is at centre back due to Virgil Van Dijk’s long term injury. Joel Matip is back and could partner Joe Gomez for this game despite Rhys Williams keeping a clean sheet away to Atalanta and Nat Phillips winning man of the match against West Ham last weekend. Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara are still out with injuries in midfield for this one.
Liverpool lost 4-0 to Man City after securing the title and know that even a 10% drop from their best level can see a repeat. Jurgen Klopp should have his side very motivated, fresh and up for an aggressive pressing job. A draw would not be a bad result but expect Liverpool to play for the win.
8 of the last 9 matches between these sides have seen over 2.5 goals (all competitions)
Man City are 8 matches unbeaten (6W, 2D – all competitions)
Liverpool are six games unbeaten (five wins) (all competitions)
Liverpool have kept three clean sheets in their last 7 matches (all competitions)
Diego Jota has scored 6 goals in his last 4 matches (all competitions)
Pep Guardiola has lost 9 games to Jurgen Klopp teams, at least 3 more than against any other coach (all competitions)
This is an extremely difficult game to call. Liverpool have responded brilliantly to Van Dijk’s injury but facing Man City is a different kettle of fish and with Fabinho also out, this game could end in a high scoring draw.