Manchester City continue their pursuit of top spot this weekend, taking on the league leaders themselves, at a ground that hasn’t provided City with the fondest of memories in recent seasons.
Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Anfield knowing they simply have to avoid defeat, to maintain any hope of retaining the Premier League crown for a second consecutive season. The blues sit six points behind the league leaders going into the game – we spoke to Gareth Roberts from the Anfield Wrap to get his view on a number of big talking points!
Thanks for joining us ahead of Sunday Gareth! As everyone else seems to be talking about it, let’s have your take on those comments from Pep Guardiola on Sadio Mane!
I’m surprised he went there to be honest. All managers, not least Pep Guardiola, are surely aware that any and every comment will soon be writ large across the media. He appeared to double down on it too, speaking to more than one set of journalists about Mane after your match with Southampton.
Given City’s record at Anfield, and how good Sadio Mane has been for Liverpool lately, firing up our fans and the player himself doesn’t seem the wisest move. Some have suggested it’s the fabled ‘mind games’ but given the world will be watching, as will VAR, I don’t see what City gain from the whole episode. As for the actual accusation, pot-kettle springs to mind as City haven’t exactly been shy of a dive or two themselves (not to mention a tactical foul, obviously…).
There’s certainly a competitive rivalry between the two clubs, but do Liverpool fans themselves feel there is a fully-fledged rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool?
It’s hard to say there isn’t a rivalry when we’re going toe to toe for the title for a second season running. It’s a different rivalry though. I still love it when Liverpool beat Everton and Manchester United, because they are our traditional foes.
With City, it’s all about the circumstances in the Premier League right now. There isn’t a history between us to speak of. I think it’s telling that the build up seems to be less about ‘Scousers vs Mancs‘, and the history of rivalry between the cities, when it’s Liverpool vs City. When it’s Liverpool vs Manchester United, it’s all you hear about: The Ship Canal, the clothes, the bands, and so on.
For older fans like myself, I still remember ‘The Old City’ – Maine Road and everything that came with that. It still feels ‘new’ to an extent to go to The Etihad and to see City competing regularly for the top trophies.
A few people have pointed out Liverpool’s failure to keep as many clean sheets as first expected going into the 19/20 campaign. What have you made of this apparent dip in form of your back line?
I think it’s being a little bit overplayed if I’m being honest. It’s all about winning and Liverpool have been doing just that – often in the face of adversity. So yes, we haven’t been as water-tight as last season at times, but we’ve also had to deal with an injury to our first-choice goalkeeper on the opening day, a new goalkeeper coming in, now another injury to Joel Matip, and a drop off of fitness/form for Joe Gomez.
When the first-choice back five is back together, fit and firing, I think we’ll be absolutely fine, particularly with the form of Fabinho in front of the defence. In the meantime, the will to win, the belief, the mentality, has been brilliant all the way through the club from the kids to the senior pros.
City fans seem to dread every single trip to Anfield, almost expecting to drop points. Is there the opposite view from Liverpool fans – an expectation/anticipation to win against Manchester City?
I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that there is a universal expectation to win among Liverpool fans, given City’s quality. But when you have to go back to the days of Nicolas Anelka up front and Kevin Keegan in the dug-out for a City win at Anfield, it does of course breed some extra confidence.
I think we’ve always been able to get ourselves up for the biggest games, especially if there is any kind of edge to it – and this match is now officially one of those. So we expect Anfield to be bouncing, we expect the players to be fired up, and we expect Liverpool to slug it out all the way with one of the best sides in the world. Jurgen Klopp has been big on his side delivering at home. And for a long time now, they have done just that.
Despite what happened in terms of the turnaround from Manchester City in last season’s title race, do you feel Liverpool have all but secured the crown with victory on Sunday?
No, you can never say that in November. Don’t get me wrong, it would be a massive step in the right direction. But you can never predict football’s randomness – injuries, fitness, form; all will play a part – for Liverpool, for City, and for their opposition week in, week out. Having waited three decades for the title, and seen so many promising positions end up in disappointment, I won’t be saying it’s done until it’s done. But a nine-point gap would be a huge psychological advantage and would ramp up the pressure on City ahead of some tough-looking games for your lot in the league.
Overall, how do you see Sunday’s game going?
Famous last words, but I can’t see it being 0-0 like last season. You mentioned that there has been some finger-pointing at Liverpool’s defence, but the same can obviously be said of City’s backline minus Laporte; it’s been less than convincing. Given the attacking talent on show, I think there’s every chance both sides score. But I fancy Liverpool to edge it. They seem stung by what happened last season and there’s been an added impetus to push for victories that has been paying off. Throw in the Anfield atmosphere (yes there is one, and yes it does matter) and I think that will get us over the line.
Liverpool Predicted Starting XI and score prediction?
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
I’m going for 2-1 to Liverpool.
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