Manchester City vs. Liverpool. It is undoubtedly the biggest game of the season and could define which city the Premier League title ends up in. A win for the Kopites would give them a 10 point lead on City, while a victory for the hosts would cut Liverpool’s lead to just 4 points.
With so much on the line, Pep Guardiola must get his team selection spot on and will no doubt have been in deep discussion with his trusted coaches throughout the week, going over every tactical detail and scenario.
So who will line up in this Clash of the Titans at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow?
The big news from Pep Guardiola’s press conference is that Kevin De Bruyne has a fighting chance of playing against Liverpool. The 27-year-old trained on Wednesday but will face a final fitness check tomorrow before a decision is made.
Otherwise, City seem to have a clean bill of health besides long-term absentees Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy. Ilkay Gundogan has recovered from a problem that kept him out of the win over Southampton. Fabian Delph is still suspended.
Wouldn’t it be something if Ederson picked up his first clean sheet since November against Liverpool of all teams? We wouldn’t bank on that, but you never know.
How Guardiola lines up his full-backs will be of particular interest, with those likely to be areas of the pitch Klopp will look to exploit. Delph is suspended and despite Pep’s praise of Zinchenko, it’d be very risky to put the young Ukrainian at left-back for this game after his mistakes against the Saints. With that in mind, we’re going for the experience of Danilo at left-back to try and cope with Liverpool’s pace and counter attacking. That means a return for Kyle Walker on the right and hopefully some improved form after a rest.
At centre-back, City won’t really be dealing with too much of a physical threat up front, but the pace and runs of Salah, Firmino and Mane. Holding a high line will be important, so we can only see John Stones and Aymeric Laporte starting in the middle.
Ahead of the defence will be Fernandinho who was excellent on his return from injury against Southampton. His presence improves City’s odds of winning this match. That gives Guardiola a dilemma of which other two midfielders to play, with three elite players available if KDB makes it. It’s possible the Belgian will only be fit enough for the bench, but we’re being bold and picking Kevin De Bruyne to start alongside David Silva, meaning the Fernandinho/De Bruyne/David Silva trio are on the pitch from kick-off with Bernardo in reserve if needed.
Riyad Mahrez’s form hasn’t really earned him a start in this game, but none of City’s talented wingers have been at their absolute best just recently. It’d be a shock if Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling don’t man the flanks to put Liverpool’s full-backs to the test. It’s about time Raz found the net against his old side.
Up-front, Sergio Aguero found his goal scoring touch against Southampton and with his incredible record of bagging against Liverpool at the Etihad, Guardiola will certainly start him.
That leaves a strong bench of Aro Muric, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus to provide options later in the game if needed.