Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 19 March 2017
Referee: Michael Oliver
Kick off: 16:30
Confidence will be understandably low in the City dressing room after being dumped out of the Champions League by Monaco on Wednesday – so what better than a game against Liverpool, the side who seem to always crank up their play against City? Jürgen Klopp’s team make the short journey to Manchester, knowing a win will see them leapfrog Pep Guardiola’s City.
The Monaco game is gone
City fans will be feeling hard done by after the loss in France on Wednesday, but Pep Guardiola has the experience to boost the mentality of his players ahead of a huge game in the race for the top four. Prior to this game, City had gone eleven unbeaten and were playing some of the best football we’ve seen from a City side in the last year or two. That is why it is needed to admit that the Monaco game is gone, and the focus turns to a more realistic goal of top four and the FA Cup. If City win tomorrow, they will make a massive step towards cementing a position in the Champions League spots for next season. With Arsenal and Chelsea away looming around the corner, this is probably our best chance of three points, taking home advantage into account – although saying that, statistically we are better away from the Etihad.
So, who should start?
The front three picks itself – not many City fans can argue with that. The star men playing on the wings in Sané and Sterling have been the brightest spark in City’s good run of results in the last month or two, and Agüero is amongst the goals more often than not, despite pundits and media labeling him as ‘finished’.
The selection problems, however, lay in midfield, more so Touré or Fernandinho. I am one of Fernandinho’s biggest fans, but his performances this side of his latest ban have been nowhere near the standards he set himself in the last two years. I’m not one for hindsight either but if Yaya was playing on Wednesday, I think City would’ve won. We missed physicality against Fabinho and Bakayoko in the middle, and it was often John Stones that was making passes from deep through the lines to the front three. As for the two in front, Silva has to start – despite a poor night mid-week, he has been one of City’s best players this season, operating from his deeper position. De Bruyne however, is having his worst run of form in a City shirt. I can’t put my finger on why, but he hasn’t been himself for a few weeks, with a number of stray passes and poor shots. Pep may drop him to the bench tomorrow, but I think even an off-par De Bruyne can devastate defences with his cutting edge through balls.
The back four is anyone’s guess. Pep chops and changes his defence more times than you can imagine, but there are positive signs slowly starting to show. John Stones has been great in the last month, and has come on leaps and bounds – but its needed to note there is still much work to do. Zabaleta’s desire to get forward was missed on Wednesday, so I think he will start, along with Stones and Kolarov. The left side of the defence will be most probably occupied by Clichy, who is definitely the weakest link in this side, and Mané could have a field day against him if he is not at his best.
Liverpool are hard to predict, when they are on form they are a force to be reckoned with. But many times I have watched a slow and lethargic Liverpool side this season. There is no doubt Mané has been their player of the season, and Coutinho will have a point to prove after not really hitting the heights he did at the start of the season, since returning from injury. Despite the media’s desire to put City’s defence under the microscope every week, Liverpool’s back four isn’t much better. Aguero could enjoy himself if he gets into promising positions like he has been doing the last few weeks.
It will be a tight game, no doubt. Klopp’s side will be up for this, but I think equally Pep will motivate his team to bounce back. I’m going 2-1 City from a goal down, Agüero and Sané to score.