The dreaded fixture is upon us. And it’s the hope that kills you. Off the back of an exceptional run of thirteen wins in all competitions, Manchester City travel to face reigning champions Liverpool.
Both sides will be without key players for what could be a pivotal point in the title race; with Jurgen Klopp waiting on late fitness tests for crucial players such as Sadio Mane, Allison Becker & Fabinho.
City have yet to concede in the league since Callum Hudson Odoi’s late consolation for Chelsea back on the 3rd January, while Liverpool enters this tie having not scored in their last three consecutive homes games while.
The Blues’ abysmal record at Anfield has been well documented, having not come away with three points since Nicolas Anelka’s winner back in 2003. However, in such a tumultuous season, Guardiola will look to right the wrongs of their previously failed expeditions to the red half of Merseyside.
Even with the absence of Kevin De Bruyne & Sergio Aguero, the Catalan still has an excellent crop of talent at his disposal. With that in mind, here is our predicted team for this Sunday’s clash….
Ederson – of course. Apart from kicking a lump out of Erik Pieters in midweek, the Brazilian has been noticeably quiet of late. Here’s hoping that continues on Sunday.
The back four complexion is arguably the hardest section to call given the plethora of options. In direct contrast to Liverpool’s current woes, Guardiola can deploy a number of different approaches.
On the left flank, we suspect Aymeric Laporte will reclaim his spot after his impressive trial run at Turf Moor, albeit against limited opposition. Zinchenko could more than likely be deployed after his efficient performances of late but the Frenchman’s excellent distribution and studios defensive positioning feels critical against the threat of Mo Salah.
In the centre of defence, John Stones & Ruben Dias will all but certainly continue their exceptional run. At right-back it surely has to be Joao Cancelo. We will of course be missing the speed of Kyle Walker in defensive transition, but the Portuguese playmaker has been just that in recent games, demonstrating his incisiveness in the final third, completing 46 passes into the penalty area (5th highest in the league), from his inverted full back-free eight role. Plus, his early removal in midweek is a telling sign for his inclusion this Sunday.
Anchoring the midfield would most likely be Rodri. There are shouts for Fernandinho to start this game after his excellent performances in both Manchester derbies earlier this season. But the Spaniard has quietly excellent this season and with the growing solidity of the defence, Rodri has demonstrated his aptitude both sides of the ball.
Ahead of him, naturally we can’t see past Bernardo Silva & Ilkay Gundogan. Bernardo is famous for his exploits in previous fixtures with Liverpool. And while lagging somewhat at the back of the Burnley tie, his tenacity and ability to drift in between the lines will be crucial in what could be a brutal opening twenty or so minutes.
Gundogan cannot be dropped at this point. The German has performed above and beyond what we had come to expect from him in recent seasons, but his continued goal threat and press resistance is another key facet for Sunday.
On the left wing, Phil Foden surely has to return to the line-up after his absence in midweek. Admittedly, Mahrez did perform well against Burnley, however Foden’s vertical dynamism through his dribbling and his natural ability to stretch the pitch is something we cannot waste, especially if we do not have an over lapping full-back with Laporte stationed there. Plus, the youngster’s combativeness in the press and endurance to track back will be essential to cutting off Alexander-Arnold’s time on the ball.
On the opposing flank, Raheem Sterling has to start. He might be terrible at Anfield yes, but he will be relentless nonetheless and hopefully cause Robertson all sorts of problems in and around the box. At the top of three, Gabriel Jesus should continue his run in the side after scoring in his last three starts. Jesus’ best finish arguably came against Liverpool in this year and we can only hope the Brazilian pulls something similar out of the bag this Sunday.
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