Can Manchester City Resurrect Their Title Hopes Against Liverpool?
A win away to Southampton not withstanding, it has been a very poor Christmas for Manchester City fans. Entering the festive period with a goal difference that was 15 better than Liverpool and just a point behind the Reds, City have contrived to lose two vital games, against Crystal Palace at home and away to Leicester to trail the Reds now by seven points.
Furthermore, that goal difference has now been eroded with the Reds, prior to the game with Southampton having an advantage of four over City, albeit City can cut that difference down depending on the final score in that game with Southampton (which is being played as I type).
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All this means that the game on Thursday between the two teams at the Etihad now carries much greater significance for City. A win for City resurrects their chances of the title as it cuts Liverpool’s lead over them to a much more manageable four points.
However, the flip side of that is, should the in-form Reds claim a win over City, then that would increase the gap to a massive ten points with 17 games remaining over the course of the season for both teams and with Liverpool, who would have already completed their fixtures with Arsenal and Manchester City, seemingly having the easier run in too.
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Let’s now take a look at how both teams could well look when they face each other on Thursday night.
Manchester City team to face Liverpool (probable)
There’s no doubt that City’s run of defeats in December means that Pep Guardiola’s approach to this game now means that he must chase a win against the Reds. On the one hand that may well suit City’s slick attacking style, but on the other, it also leaves them open to the Reds counter attack, which so hurt them in the league and Champions League last season.
City will go with their usual 4-3-3 formation with just a couple of changes from the game with Southampton where I would expect Walker to come in at right back and Sane to come in down the left in place of Mahrez. The only other possible change could be John Stones coming in for Kompany if the big Belgian defender is not ready to play two games in four days, but I think Kompany will start against the Reds.
Manchester City (4-3-3)
- Ederson – Gk
- Walker – Dr
- Zinchenko – Dl
- Kompany – Dc
- Laporte – Dc
- Silva – Mc
- Fernandinho – Mc
- Silva – Mc
- Sterling – Amr
- Sane – Aml
- Aguero – Ac
Liverpool team to face Manchester City (probable)
After their stunning win over Arsenal, I think Jurgen Klopp will elect to rotate a few players around and opt for a more defensive outlook against Manchester City, especially in midfield. I would expect Henderson to come into the team in place of Shaqiri, while I also feel that if Milner is fit, he would get the nod ahead of Fabinho in midfield after the Brazilian had a somewhat shaky game against Arsenal. Other than that, I can’t see Klopp changing too much from the team that hammered Arsenal on Saturday evening.
- Alisson – Gk
- Alexander Arnold – Dr
- Robertson – Dl
- Van Dijk – Dc
- Lovren – Dc
- Henderson – Mc
- Wijnaldum – Mc
- Milner – Mc
- Mane – Aml
- Salah – Amr
- Firmino – Ac
Manchester City’s problems began back in December with defeat at Chelsea (0-2) but they steadied the ship with wins over Hoffenheim in the Champions League and then over Everton and Watford in the Premier League. However over the Christmas period two defeats in two games, against Crystal Palace and Leicester have severely hurt their Premier League title tilt and although they rectified that somewhat against Southampton, they are still seven points behind Liverpool.
In contrast to City, Liverpool have enjoyed a fantastic Christmas with all of their title rivals in the top five dropping points, while the Reds have picke dup maximum points over the fixtures they have played since December 1st. Six wins in the Premier League as well as a Champions League victory over Napoli means that 2019 begins with Liverpool flying high, especially after putting four past Newcastle at Anfield on Boxing Day, followed by a 5-1 hammering of fifth place Arsenal on the following Saturday.
Injuries and Suspensions
City will be without the suspended Fabian Delph for this game while the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan are a doubt with knocks. Fernandinho should be fit to play, but Bernard Mendy and David Ospina are definitely out injured.
Liverpool will be without Joe Gomez for the game, James Milner is also a doubt after being rested after picking up a tight hamstring over the festive period, but the ex-Manchester City man could well be fit to play against his former club. Other than that, Liverpool have a generally clean bill of health heading into the game.
Manchester City v Liverpool Tips
- Who will win the game?
A few weeks ago, I’d have backed Manchester City to win this game, but even though they are the Champions and at home, I think the fact that they need to go for the win here could well be their achilles heel. They couldn’t break down a Liverpool side not in great shape at Anfield a few months back and this Liverpool team is in much better form and far more confident than the Reds were back then.
As such, I think City will likely push on to win this one and I think that plays into Liverpool’s hands. The Reds were devastating on the counter attack against Arsenal and I can see them having an equally productive time of it against a City defence which has been struggling of late and which has conceded plenty of goals in recent games.
As such, while I can see City scoring, I think that Liverpool will surprise a few and run out winners to cement their place at the top of the Premier League table.