Sports Mole previews Sunday's blockbuster Premier League showdown between top two Liverpool and Manchester City, including predictions, team news and

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups
Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups
  • 2019-11-09 00:10:07 1 years ago
  • Views 3,343

The biggest game of the Premier League season so far takes place at Anfield on Sunday afternoon when leaders Liverpool welcome champions and closest title challengers Manchester City to Merseyside.

Six points separate the two sides at the top of the table after 11 games, with Liverpool having dropped only two from a possible 33 so far this term and Man City struggling to keep pace.

Match preview

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp talk to each other during the match in January 2019© Reuters

Even with six months of the season still to play, this feels like a pivotal match.

Both sides have played down the suggestion that this could be a title decider in November, but there is no doubt that the result will have a huge impact on the table - either Liverpool move nine points clear, their lead stays at six points or Man City cut the gap to three.

The difference between recovering a nine-point deficit or a three-point one is huge, both realistically and psychologically, so for City this contest is verging on the realm of 'must-not-lose' territory - as was the case when they welcomed Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium in January.

Victory on that occasion spurred them on to overhaul a seven-point gap and win the title by one solitary point in the highest-quality race the Premier League has ever seen, but since then the balance of power has shifted in Liverpool's favour.

The Reds have won 16 of their 18 matches across all competitions this season and 10 of their opening 11 in the Premier League, with their only dropped points so far coming away to City's local rivals Manchester United last month.

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Genk on November 5, 2019© Reuters

Another win on Sunday would see them equal the English top-flight record for the best-ever start to a league season - a record they themselves achieved the last time they won the title in 1990 and one which Man City have also equalled on two previous occasions.

Much of the intrigue surrounding this game relates to the suggestion that Liverpool have not even been at their best in recent weeks, despite such a dominant run of results.

Whereas Manchester City regularly look capable of running riot and have already hit eight goals past an opponent this season, Liverpool's recent victories have been as much about character and spirit as they have their undoubted quality.

Jurgen Klopp's side have been trailing at half time in each of their last three league games - the first time that has happened since 2012 - but they have picked up seven points from those games and, over the course of the campaign so far, have rescued an unrivalled 10 points from losing positions.

Only one of their last nine games across all competitions has been decided by more than one goal, and from their last five domestic outings they have scored in the 95th, 85th, 75th, 87th and 94th (twice) minutes to get results - a clear example of their never-say-die attitude but also a position they will not want to find themselves in so often.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pictured on November 5, 2019© Reuters

Of course, Klopp would take a repeat on Sunday if it meant his side came away with all three points, but he and his players will know that they cannot always rely on a late saviour and, such is the quality of these two title chasers, that any dropped points could prove crucial come May.

The first step towards solving that issue is to tighten up defensively; Liverpool boasted the best defence in the league last season and only two teams have conceded fewer so far this term too, but they have only kept three clean sheets in 18 games across all competitions and are remarkably still waiting for their first at Anfield.

The Reds have conceded in each of their last eight games in front of their own fans, including five league outings, and that will be a particular concern as they welcome the division's leading goalscorers.

It is a record that certainly needs improving - Liverpool kept clean sheets in eight of their final 10 home games last season, for example - but pointing it out does also have an element of nit-picking about it given their overall form at Anfield.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on October 27, 2019© Reuters

Klopp's side are 45 home games without defeat in the league - the second-longest run in Premier League history - and have only lost one of their 22 home league games against other members of the 'big six' since the German took charge of the club.

Not since 2007 have Liverpool been beaten by the reigning Premier League champions at Anfield either, while home and away their top-flight unbeaten run now stands at 28, with 19 wins from their last 20.

Indeed, the solitary defeat in their last 50 league matches came against Man City in January, which only places more emphasis on the need for Pep Guardiola's to take points off them themselves given how rarely the Reds drop points against the other 18 teams in the division.

Liverpool have been setting standards which Man City demanded of the rest of the league en route to their back-to-back titles, with their tally of 198 points over the course of those two campaigns putting them firmly into the conversation of the Premier League's greatest ever teams.

Man City manager Pep Guardiola on October 26, 2019© Reuters

It is a team which is changing and facing new challenges now, though, with Vincent Kompany's summer departure already proving significant. City will hope that David Silva's exit next year does not prove equally as difficult to solve.

The stats above prove how difficult it is to beat this Liverpool side, but a draw is a much better result for the hosts than it is for City and so they may be tempted to take a few more risks than they did on their last visit to Anfield, when the match ended in a goalless draw.

Aside from the obvious benefit of cutting the gap to three points, victory could also act as a psychological boost to suggest that perhaps the torch for England's most dominant team has not yet been passed from Manchester to Merseyside.

It would also damage the growing aura of invincibility surrounding Klopp's side - particularly at Anfield - which is something Man City themselves have enjoyed in recent seasons before seeing it weakened by defeats to Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers already this season.

No team managed by Guardiola has ever suffered three top-flight defeats before the 15th match of a season and, while those two losses so far have allowed Liverpool to break free, it is worth remembering just how impressive Man City's record is too.

Manchester City's Kyle Walker celebrates scoring their second goal with Gabriel Jesus and teammates on November 2, 2019© Reuters

The champions have won 22 of their last 25 top-flight outings, including 11 of their last 12 Premier League away games, scoring 30 goals in the process.

City had less joy on the road in midweek as they were held to an eventful 1-1 draw by Atalanta in Milan - a match which saw Kyle Walker end up in goal after Ederson had been taken off injured and his replacement Claudio Bravo was shown a red card.

Liverpool did not have things all their own way in Europe either as they edged to a 2-1 victory over Genk, although the Reds played at home and a day earlier than Man City, which could play a part in a game often decided by the finest margins - as was the case at the Etihad in January when 11 millimeters separated Liverpool from a goal which ultimately would have won them the title.

Whatever happens it promises to be a footballing feast between the two best sides in England - arguably Europe - and it could well prove to be a seminal moment in the 2019-20 season.

Liverpool Premier League form: WWWDWW
Liverpool form (all competitions): DWWWWW

Man City Premier League form: WWLWWW
Man City form (all competitions): WWWWWD

Team News

Ederson warms up for Man City on November 6, 2019© Reuters

The major piece of team news ahead of this match regards Ederson, who was taken off at half time in midweek and has subsequently been ruled out of the contest due to a muscle problem.

Bravo will don the gloves at Anfield as a result and, while Guardiola has demanded respect for a goalkeeper that has won the Champions League and made 123 international appearances, his presence will be seen as a positive by Liverpool fans - particularly after his red card in Milan.

Ederson is not the only big-name absentee for City, with playmaker David Silva expected to miss the match and Rodri also still sidelined.

Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, the latter of whom scored the all-important winner when the two sides last met in the league, are longer-term injury layoffs.

Guardiola is likely to opt for Sergio Aguero leading the line despite the Argentine having never scored in seven Premier League games at Anfield - his longest wait for a goal at any stadium.

Indeed, he has only managed two shots on target in those seven games, although this term he has a frightening ratio of nine goals from 10 shots on target and he will no doubt be looking to mark his 250th Premier League appearance in style on Sunday.

The match could also see Raheem Sterling make his 200th Premier League start, 77 of which came for Liverpool before he joined City in 2015. The England international is expected to start in a front three alongside Aguero and Riyad Mahrez, with Bernardo Silva pushed further back to cover David Silva's absence.

There is also a decision to make in central defence, with Fernandinho having started five of the last six games there despite both Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones being fit during that time.

Klopp must also consider his centre-back options with Joel Matip still sidelined, and Dejan Lovren appears to be the most likely to start ahead of Joe Gomez alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Clyne are the hosts' only other injury concerns, with Klopp confirming that both Van Dijk and captain Jordan Henderson are available despite missing training earlier in the week.

Henderson is expected to start alongside Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum in what has been Klopp's first-choice midfield trio more often than not this season, with the skipper set to become the sixth player to make 250 Premier League appearances for Liverpool.

The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will look to capitalise on Man City missing some key defensive players, and the latter has been in especially good form of late with 17 goals from his last 17 league games at Anfield.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Man City possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling

Head To Head

For all of Man City's dominance of English football in recent seasons, they have still found Anfield a tough nut to crack.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 16 top-flight home games against Sunday's opponents - a run which stretches back to 2003 and is City's longest winless streak away from home in the Premier League against any opponent.

The 2003 triumph was something of an anomaly too, with that their only victory in their last 28 league visits to Anfield.

Guardiola is winless here in four previous visits with City across all competitions, although they have only lost one of their last five Premier League meetings with Liverpool home or away and could win back-to-back top-flight matches against the Reds for the first time in 82 years.

As for the two managers, Guardiola has lost seven of his 17 games against Klopp in all competitions - more defeats than he has suffered against any other boss.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Liverpool 2-1 Man City

Premier League matches go not get much bigger than this: European champions versus English champions, first versus second and two of the best teams the competition has ever seen facing off.

It promises to be a fascinating contest and if any team can end Liverpool's long unbeaten run at Anfield then it is this Man City side, who will at least be confident of prolonging the hosts' wait for a clean sheet. However, the Reds have continually found a way to get the job done this season, and we are backing them to do it again on Sunday.

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