Manchester City travel to Anfield tomorrow to face Liverpool in a top of the table clash between two Premier League titans. City will be looking to get the first victory in the Premier League on the red side of Merseyside since May 2003 whereas Liverpool will be eager for a fourth victory in a row against City in all competitions. Whichever side does snatch the three points will head up the Premier League table by the end of the game week.
Jurgen Klopp will continue with his tried and trusted formation of 4-3-3 that served him so well over the years. It allows Liverpool’s counter-attacking yet pressing nature to come to fruition and cause problems all over the pitch for opposing sides.
Alisson is set to start between the sticks and will be looking to build on his clean sheet number, being four. City goalkeeper Ederson is also on four with the pair tied by Rui Patricio of Wolves. Both of the Brazilian ‘keepers are pivotal to their playstyle with Alisson’s signing this summer allowing Liverpool to be more confident when building from the back when they have someone so adept in possession like Alisson is.
Liverpool’s expected back-four is the norm. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson provide the attacking prowess from the fullback roles which will be sure to overload City out wide if they aren’t wise in their defensive approach. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have provided a stern basis at the heart of the defence with three clean sheets in the six games the pair have played together. They have a budding partnership that, worryingly for the rest of the League, is only going to get better.
In the midfield, the trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner look set to start with limited, fit, options in the middle of the park for Klopp to choose from. Fabinho is still being eased into the side and is yet to start a Premier League game and Keita is unlikely to start as he was nursing an injury as recent as midweek. Liverpool’s midfield will be energetic, willing to fight for every single ball and competent enough in possession to cause City problems on the break if City do commit too many men forward.
Speaking of forwards, Liverpool’s frontline is the weapon that Klopp will be hoping unleashes itself on City’s backline. Despite a suggested lack of form, even though he has three League goals so far, Mohamed Salah can and still will cause City’s left-back problems with his trickery, whoever that may be. Roberto Firmino will be sure to fight for every last ball and is clever enough in front of goal to make City’s defenders pay for any mistakes that they may make under such pressure. Sadio Mane will have his work cut out to make a mockery of Kyle Walker who could contain him if the Englishman works to his strengths. Whether City play with three at the back with wing-backs, or four-at-the-back matching Liverpool’s formation, they will have to always be aware of the interchanging front three that caused them so many problems last season.
Naby Keita could be set for a spot on the bench as he hasn’t been ruled out following a back spasm in Naples midweek. Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain out of contention.
We spoke to Jordan Chamberlain of Empire of the Kop to get his thoughts on last season’s encounters, Mohamed Salah, who and where Liverpool could cause City problems and a prediction.
If we begin with last season, what do you feel went wrong for Liverpool during the 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium?
Well, it was an evenly contested game before Sadio Mane got sent off, and then you ran riot. So… The Mane red-card, probably! To be fair, the defence that day was naff and included Ragnar Klavan, so City would have likely won anyway, but not by five. Pep’s side can do that to anyone with ten men. Amazing team.
What do you think Liverpool changed in their approach from the first game to then beat City in the last three games?
Not very much. We started that game at the Etihad pressing and using our speed down the flanks – trying to isolate City defenders into one-on-one situations. But things happen in games that change the outlook. We did the same at Anfield and it worked, then once again in the Champions League. The second-tie was different because of our 3-0 lead.
Even though Mohamed Salah has scored three league goals this season a lot has been made of his form, what are your thoughts on that and how much of an impact do you think he will have on the game?
He’s playing the same as he did last season, in the same position, he’s just not finishing his half-chances like he did last term. It’s a little annoying, but it’s no biggie. His runs, sprints, dribbles and touches in the box is all the same – he just needs a bit of luck to start a run of goalscoring. He’s still the player opponents are most worried about and rightly so.
Which part of the pitch can Liverpool best exploit City in and vice versa?
Occasionally there’s gaps between City’s central defenders, and both Mane and Salah can cut in from the wings and use those. City also throw plenty of players forward, so we always have a chance on the break. Liverpool can get got through the centre by quick passing and if our fullbacks are put in two v one situations.
Who will be the decisive player for Liverpool and a prediction?
Bobby Firmino! Always arrives against City. I’m going for a 2-2 draw and a great match between two of the best sides in Europe.