Can the Reds breathe life into their title defense when they welcome the new favorites?
Liverpool have no illusions about the significance of Sunday’s clash against Manchester City as they seek to bring their dwindling title defense to life.
Despite back-to-back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United – triumphs that suggested the defending champions had turned the corner, their recent home loss to Brighton & Hove Albion left them seven points behind.
Liverpool have also played one game less than new league leaders Man City, and it is imperative that they take maximum points as they seek to reclaim their fierce rivals before the race.
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Liverpool vs Manchester City: team news
The Reds still maintain a seemingly endless injury record, and there are no less than eight injured or questionable players heading towards this one.
Defensive trio Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are all still out, which means Jurgen Klopp could choose to pair Fabinho with new boy Ozan Kabak in defense, should the former recover from injury issues.
It would be a baptism of fire for the newcomer, but having apparently lost confidence in his young replacements, Klopp may choose to start his recent signing right off the bat.
Another option for the bottom line is Ben Davies, a recent signing from Preston North End, although it would be a bet to start either new boy against City.
This would free up Jordan Henderson to enter midfield, although if Klopp prefers to keep his skipper on defense, players like Xherdan Shaqiri, James Milner or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could enter midfield.
Alisson is a doubt, but is expected to have gotten into shape after practice on Friday, while Naby Keita is also doubtful for the contest.
Further up the pitch, Diogo Jota is also absent, although Liverpool will likely take a risk on Sadio Mane as he recovers from his latest setback.
City’s problems are much less serious, although they will have to do without Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake, both of whom are still sidelined.
Sergio Aguero remains absent after testing positive for coronavirus.
With the Argentine superstar absent, will Pep Guaridola opt for Gabriel Jesus to lead the line, or could a “scorer” trio of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden be employed against the champions?
Liverpool vs Manchester City: key facts and statistics
These two have been the rivalry to watch in English football in recent years, and Sunday’s showdown – even without a few big names – will be the gripping final chapter in a fascinating feud.
Liverpool have lost just one of their last 29 home games against City – in 2003 – while away teams, in general, have performed poorly in the meetings between these two teams.
Out of the last 24 meetings between them in the league, there has been only one away victory – for Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in 2015.
However, the Reds have been more vulnerable than usual at home recently; they have lost each of their last two home games, having already gone 68 unbeaten at Anfield.
It’s a bad race that they will desperately want not to extend, having suffered losses in three consecutive league games in 1963.
Klopp, likewise, is on the edge of uncharted territory – he last lost three straight home games in 2013, while in charge of Borussia Dortmund.
Worryingly for the Merseyside giants, City are on a 13-game winning streak in all competitions; for context, only twice before in English football history (Preston in 1892 and Arsenal in 1987) have won 14 teams on the rebound.
Liverpool vs Manchester City: Predictions
Both have injury issues ahead of this one, although Liverpool are clearly struggling to cope with theirs.
Their three top defensive absentees are clearly undermining their title race, and Brighton’s loss has made their recent victories look like a false dawn.
Now is not the right time to face City!
Granted, Guardiola’s side have their own absentees, but their 13-game winning streak demonstrates their ability to find solutions without their key men, and they have looked irresistible in recent weeks.
Prediction: Liverpool 0-2 Manchester City