Seven days after putting Burnley to the sword in one of the ugliest winning performances you will see all season, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side travel to the Etihad to take on a wounded Manchester City. Fresh off an extremely disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Monaco, Pep Guardiola’s men will come into this match with the mindset that anything other than a victory is unacceptable. And with City placed just one point and place above the Reds, the result of this clash will have major ramifications on the race for top four.
If (and it’s a big if) all top six teams win their games in hand, then four points will separate 2nd from 6th. And if you’re not an anxious fan of one of those 5 teams wrestling for 3 of the realistically available Champions League places, then your mouth must be watering at how heated the race is getting. Six top managers are in charge of England’s currently six best clubs, and Chelsea aside, the competition has been as fierce was expected. However, at the end of the season two teams will be devastated to have missed out on Europe’s elite competition, and inevitably will have managers under intense scrutiny. Guardiola and Klopp will do everything in their power to ensure that it will not be them. Thus magnifying the importance of Sunday’s matchup.
Liverpool head into this encounter quietly confident, the Reds have managed back to back league wins for the first time in 2017. One victory was emphatic while the other was clumsy, the fact that the former came against Arsenal, and the latter against Burnley, almost puts Liverpool in better stead to face Manchester City. Any side managed by Pep Guardiola will not want to sit deep, especially when playing at home. The Spaniard’s philosophy is built off taking risks, it usually blows teams away because his players are at a level where these risks are almost second nature. And when his Manchester City side is at that level, they will be a scary beast indeed, however they are not there yet. As long as Willy Caballero is playing, Pep has a goalkeeper with two left feet. And with a defense that is likely to consist of Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, and Kolarov, Liverpool have plenty that they can look forward to getting after. Whether its capitalising on their extremely imperfect playing out of the back, or just exposing their lack of basic defensive nous at times, there are very real weaknesses in this City side. Going forward however, they are a completely different animal; a five-man attack consisting of Aguero, Sane, Silva, De Bruyne, and Sterling is formidable. With that being said though, Liverpool were still able to keep City’s attack at bay in the reverse fixture at Anfield. And the Reds have triumphed over the citizens in each of the last four league encounters between the two, make it five consecutive wins and Liverpool will take a massive step towards securing Champions League qualification.