After a week of FA and Carabao Cup action, it’s back to Premier League football. Sunday afternoon sees yet another mouth-watering top-flight fixture – Liverpool vs Manchester City. Will City’s unbeaten run finally end at Anfield?
Philippe Coutinho is out and Virgil van Dijk is in – how will the changes affect Liverpool’s excellent form? Jürgen Klopp’s team haven’t lost in 17 matches and they’re now only 3 points behind Manchester United in 2nd place. Of all the teams trying to stop the runaway leaders, Liverpool look the most likely. City haven’t won a league match at Anfield since 2003.
But can Pep Guardiola’s team be stopped? In the Christmas pile-up, Newcastle came close and Crystal Palace held on for an impressive draw. Since then, however, City have won 3 in a row. Back in September, they thrashed Liverpool 5-0.
Liverpool’s two major fitness doubts are captain Jordan Henderson and top scorer Mohamed Salah. The Reds can survive without Henderson in midfield, but Salah is key in attack, especially now that Coutinho has gone. The Egyptian sat out the FA match against Everton and will surely play at least some part in Liverpool vs Manchester City.
City will be without Gabriel Jesus and Vincent Kompany, who are both injured. David Silva has been in Spain with his prematurely-born son, but he should be back for this big match.
Will van Dijk make all the difference to Liverpool’s defence? It’s the Dutchman’s pace and intelligence that will be tested against City, rather than his height and strength. Joël Matip is his most likely partner in the middle. Full-backs Joe Gomez and Andrew Robertson will be busy against Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling.
But what about Fabian Delph vs Mohamed Salah? On paper, it’s a real mismatch that Liverpool will be desperate to exploit. At least City will have Nicolás Otamendi back to sure up the centre of defence. Against Bristol City, John Stones and Eliaquim Mangala looked a flawed partnership.
Liverpool vs Manchester City sees the Premier League’s two best strikeforces go head to head. Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino vs Sergio Agüero, Sané and Sterling. There must be goals.
The match may well be won or lost in deeper areas, however. Without Coutinho, do Liverpool have anyone who can create chances like Kevin De Bruyne does for City? Adam Lallana is only just back from a long-term injury – this might be a big game too soon for him.