England’s two dominant sides of recent years will do battle on Sunday afternoon as Manchester City welcome Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium looking to close the gap between themselves and the current league leaders.
Both sides have failed to hit the glitzing form witnessed in recent campaigns with injuries leading to a stuttering start to the season for the duo. However, an unbeaten October, buttressed by wins against both Sheffield United and Olympiakos in the past week has suggested that City are beginning to look back to their best.
Almost seamlessly, the Blues have a #21 heavily involved in goals despite David Silva’s departure; with fellow Spanish native, Ferran Torres, having had a mesmerising start to life in Manchester.
Another outstanding performance in the Champions League on Tuesday saw Torres become the third youngest player to score in four consecutive UCL appearances as he continues to shine in the forward role, despite primarily being a winger.
The 20-year-old’s opening goal sent City well on their way to another group stage victory, a third straight win, that leaves them needing just one more point to secure qualification to the knockout stages.
Liverpool also maintained a winning start to their Champions League campaign with a new signing also shining for them. Former Wolves player Diogo Jota has maintained the form witnessed in the Midlands, with seven goals from 10 appearances so far for the Merseyside team; including a hat-trick against Atalanta on Tuesday.
Home advantage has meant very little post project-restart as stadiums continue to be starved of football’s oxygen – the fans. However, it has been the home team that has dominated this fixture in recent times with City having won the past three league meetings at home, by an aggregate score of 11-1.
Ahead of this vital clash before the final international break of the year, here is everything you need to know about Manchester City’s meeting with Liverpool on Sunday…
Sunday is likely to come soon for Sergio Agüero despite reports suggesting that the Argentine might have been fit for the clash last week. City’s second striker, Gabriel Jesus is expected to play a role on Sunday after coming off the bench and scoring in midweek. Nathan Aké also made a return from injury alongside John Stones on Tuesday but one would expect Guardiola to revert back to a centre-back partnership of Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte. The Blues also remain without Fernandinho who is recovering from a muscular injury.
Jurgen Klopp described the game as “the most difficult game in the world of football” and he will be without several big names for the challenge. The biggest absentee will be without a doubt Virgil Van Djik, who underwent surgery for a ligament injury picked up in the Merseyside derby. The Reds are also expected to be without Thiago but Joel Matip is expected to return for the Reds.
Head To Head:
City could win consecutive top-flight matches against their North-West rivals for the first time in over 80 years after a 4-0 thumping of the current Premier League champions in July. The victory last season was City’s third straight home league win against the Champions with a 5-0 thrashing in 2017 and a momentous 2-1 win in January of 2019.
City did though lose 3-1 at Anfield last season as well as suffer an infuriating 5-1 aggregate defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League in 2018. The sides also met in last season’s Community shield where City came out as winners on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Overall, Sunday afternoons fixture will be the 186th time City and Liverpool have played one another with City having won 49, drawn 46 and lost 90 of the past meetings. City have scored 244 goals but conceded 325 in the past 185 games. Pep Guardiola has lost eight times to the Liverpool boss, the worst figure in his career.
As mentioned, Manchester City managed to have avoid defeat in October and have shown signs of their previous form in recent matches. City are though yet to win back-to-back Premier League games this season, so could they break the poor cycle on Sunday?
City are currently 10th in the league, five points away from leaders Liverpool but a game in hand meaning City could be within two points of first place after Sunday’s game. Guardiola’s side have won three, drawn two and lost one of their opening six games with last weekends win at Sheffield United propelling City to a points total of 11, the same amount as they had after as many games under Manuel Pellegrini in 2014. It will though be the first of three upcoming big games with games against Spurs and Manchester United to come shortly after the international break.
Liverpool’s start to the season certainly hasn’t been as scintillating either with an embarrassing 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa being one of two occasions they have dropped points already this season. Despite having five wins from seven and a one point lead at the top of the league, the Champions have conceded a hefty 15 goals already this campaign and have failed to win in six of their last nine league matches away from Anfield. Like City, it hasn’t been raining goals for Liverpool in the league either, a 3-1 over Arsenal their biggest so far this season.
Craig Pawson will return to Premier League action on Sunday when he is joined by assistant referees Lee Betts and Richard West as well as fourth official Andre Marriner at the Etihad. Pawson, who’s last Premier League match was Leicester’s 1-0 against Arsenal was in charge of Napoli’s Europa League win against Real Sociedad last Thursday. The referee has taken charge of eight games so far this season where he has shown a total of 26 yellow cards and a red card on two occasions. Paul Tierney (VAR) will be accompanied by Stephen Child (AVAR) at Stockley Park to oversee VAR operations.
You can follow Harry on Twitter here: @harrywinters16
Follow us on Twitter for live match coverage: @City_Xtra