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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Manchester City - Can Liverpool extend their lead at the top when defending champions Manchester City visit them?

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If any game could speak volumes about the quality of the , it is this. Peter Drury once called it Platinum Standard football. When Liverpool host Manchester City in the on Sunday, the footballing quality would be of the highest order. The game, albeit in the seventh week of the new campaign is billed as a title decider. It is true in all sense as Liverpool are league leaders and Manchester City are knocking on the door from the second position.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were written off by many when the new season began. The Reds welcomed Virgil van Dijk from a long term injury and were inactive in the transfer market. Plus the slump of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino made critics shoot their bullets at Liverpool. But more than a month into the campaign, the Reds are happily sat on top of the league and the Champions League. Klopp has used his cards brilliantly thus far and would hope that his side would outsmart Manchester City again.

Manchester City endured a slow start to the campaign. This was a theme of the last season. But this season, they snapped the streak at one after a loss to Tottenham Hotspurs. Despite the £100 million British record fee signing of Jack Grealish, this has been an unsuccessful window for City. The Citizens failed to replace the departing legendary striker Sergio Aguero. Though they have performed admirably well with a false nine in Ferran Torres, it might hurt them in big games. It was evident when they lost to PSG in the Champions League.

As the top two of the Premier League go head to head, FootTheBall brings you everything you need to know before the clash.

TEAM NEWS

When the last season ended and the new season started, Klopp might’ve breathed easily. Last season battered Liverpool with an unprecedented injury crisis. However, they’re not lucky this time too as they face a long injury list.

Liverpool’s main attacking outlet Trent Alexander Arnold is out for the game according to Jurgen Klopp. The right-back suffered an injury in training and can not take part in the high octane clash. James Milner’s substitution in the midweek game against Porto indicates his involvement against City on Sunday. Liverpool are without two more influential midfielders in Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott.

When it comes to team selection, Milner might play on the right side with Klopp’s other four options including Alisson in goal are unchanged. Screening them is Fabinho who would be most likely accompanied by the man in form Curtis Jones and skipper Jordan Henderson. However, Klopp has a selection dilemma for the striker role. The returning Roberto Firmino scored a brace midweek and might make a case for a start. Knowing Klopp’s big match tendencies he might end up starting all four star attackers as well.

PREDICTED XI:

Alisson; Milner, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane

 

Manchester City are missing left-back Olexandr Zinchenko and John Stones to minor niggles. But Guardiola has a selection headache of a different kind. He has all attacking midfielders available for selection. But given the difficulty of the opposition, he might have preferred having a single pure striker.

As Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne were injured earlier in the season, City threw Jack Grealish right into the deep end. The left-winger was also used an eight on the left-hand side to help City’s chance creation. With the highly influential pair back, the competition for places at City has never been tougher.

Pep might play Raheem Sterling or Ferran Torres at striker while using Riyad Mahrez and Foden on the wings. This means that one of Jack Grealish or the impressive Bernardo Silva have to drop to the bench as Rodri and de Bruyne are guaranteed starters. But it is impossible to guess what goes inside ’s masterful mind. He can start without a striker and overload the midfield with his players to get a result.

PREDICTED XI:

Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; de Bruyne, Rodri, Silva; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden

GAME CHANGERS

MOHAMED SALAH

The Egyptian king is in the form of his life and breaking records again with each passing game. Having reached a century of Premier League goals a few weeks earlier, he hit his hundredth goal for Liverpool last weekend against Brentford. He continued his form with a midweek brace against Porto.

The Egyptian’s hunger for goals is insatiable and he is a proven big-game performer. With Trent Alexander Arnold out, he might take the onus for chance creation on the right side as well as getting into good scoring positions inside the box. He has five goals to his name in the league already and is a top favourite for his third golden boot.

Joao Cancelo might start for City on the left-hand side of the defence. He has to be at his very best and carefully manage attack and defence to prevent Salah spaces. If he is caught on the counter with the ball at the Egyptian’s feet, there’s only one outcome.

KEVIN DE BRUYNE

The midfield maestro is a delightful passer of the ball and unlocks defences with ease. But de Bruyne has succumbed to quite a lot of minor niggles since the last year. He missed his Belgium side’s opener at the Euro 2020 and was slowly introduced. Similarly, he entered the new campaign with an injury and was nursed back into the fold by Pep Guardiola.

But the Belgian international got straight back into the business once he was fit. With beautiful crosses and long passes, he is creating chance after chance for the Citizens. He was unlucky to be denied an assist against PSG midweek.

De Bruyne knows that Liverpool’s defence is not the same anymore. After coming back from long term injuries, van Dijk and Matip are susceptible to balls in behind. Especially with the high line that Liverpool play, this can be a key channel for de Bruyne to create chances for City’s runners in behind.

PREDICTIONS

Manchester City broke their unlucky Anfield streak after nearly 18 years. In a campaign marred by injuries, losing 4-1 to City at home was another damaging blow for Liverpool. However, they would like to put it behind them as they are at nearly full strength again.

Both sides and managers are attack-minded and won’t settle for a draw. When top-quality players meet, the quality of football is something else.

Liverpool would look to protect their unbeaten streak in the league since the end of last season and make a title statement to Manchester City. Meanwhile, the defending champions would look to usurp the hosts and move to the top of the table for the first time this season.

FootTheBall predicts an extraordinary football match between Liverpool and Manchester City with the defending champions taking three points courtesy of a 2-1 win.

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