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Manchester City vs Liverpool: Match Preview | Premier League 2021/22

Manchester-City-vs-Liverpool-Match-Preview-Premier-League-2021-22

The destiny of the Premier League trophy will not be decided on Sunday, but Manchester City‘s top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool at the Etihad could give a very clear indication as to who will propel themselves to the prestigious crown come May. The gap between the two sides at the top of the table now stands at just a single point, with the reigning champions just about holding off the threat of the Reds for now.

Both sides head into this crucial meeting off the back of Champions League midweek quarter-final successes, with City just edging a resilient Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the Etihad while Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners over Benfica.

It has only taken two draws and a loss for City to lose their grip on what seemed to be a sixth PL crown, as Liverpool continued their surge towards Guardiola’s men with Southampton, Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur denting the sky Blues’ dreams of back-to-back glory.

Man City were at one stage this season, eight points clear having played the same amount of games as Liverpool, but Klopp’s men have enjoyed an unstoppable run winning their games in hand over the past few months, cutting the gap to just a single point.

The Citizen’s title destiny is still in their own hands, though, and victory on their own turf would see them open up an unassailable four-point gap at the summit heading into the final seven games of the season, but a Champions League quarter-final second leg with Atletico and a reunion with Liverpool in the semi-finals of the FA Cup represents a gruelling Easter period for Guardiola’s men.

City will take an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions into Sunday’s top-of-the-table battle-winning six of them, including each of their last three – and they have conceded a mere two goals in that stretch; no mean feat with key man Ruben Dias watching on from the treatment room.

Conceding just 18 goals in 30 Premier League games this season gives City the title of the division’s best defensive outfit this term, while 40 goals on home soil is also the best in the league – even if Liverpool have accumulated more points on home territory this season.

Not since October have City failed to score in a Premier League game at the Etihad – winning eight of their last nine such matches alongside that shock defeat to Tottenham – but Liverpool have all the motivation and prowess they need to consign their rivals to a potentially damaging defeat.

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Potentially getting some early mind games in by hailing his counterpart Guardiola as “the best coach in the world”, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has entered the month of April with the quadruple still a real possibility, although he is probably already sick of hearing the word.

Having already stolen Man City’s EFL Cup crown out of their grasp and within touching distance of doing the same to their coveted Premier League title, Liverpool – to put it simply – have been a winning machine since January, and they have not allowed the international break to halt their cruising momentum.

Liverpool were not at their free-flowing best against Watford at Anfield last weekend but further showed their title credentials getting over the line comfortably thanks to Diogo Jota’s header and Fabinho’s exemplary penalty, with that result seeing them briefly rise to the summit before City restored order at Burnley.

The Reds have moved on from the days of the indispensable Mohamed Salah-Roberto Firmino-Sadio Mane front three, but the two astute attacking acquisitions in Jota and Diaz have been scintilating when given the opportunity; giving Klopp the healthiest kind of selection headache for Sunday.

The 3-1 win at Benfica marked Liverpool’s fifth victory in a row in all competitions, and Klopp’s side have astonishingly prevailed in 17 of their last 18 games domestically and continentally – only Inter Milan have been able to get one over the Merseyside giants in that run.

Liverpool’s remarkable run of victories sees them head into Sunday’s game aiming to win for the 11th time in a row, with last weekend’s triumph over Watford seeing them string together 10 Premier League wins for the fifth time in their history – matching the previous record set by City. These are two of the most unrelenting sides in Europe.

While they will be coming up against the league’s best defence, Liverpool have proven to be pretty adept at keeping the ball away from their own net with five successive clean sheets in the Premier League, and a whopping tally of 77 goals is the highest in the league by far, seven more than their rivals.

Playing on rival turf has certainly not phased the Merseyside giants in recent weeks either, with Liverpool winning eight in a row away from home across all competitions, but not since 2010 have they been able to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium.

If there is a victor on the blue side of Manchester this weekend, the Premier League trophy will be theirs to lose, but challenges aplenty will still present themselves amid City and Liverpool’s hectic schedules before the curtain closes on one of the most gripping and fascinating title races we’ve witnessed.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Venue: Etihad Stadium.
Date: Sunday, 10th April 2022.
Time: 16:30 (BST).

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistant referee: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Andre Marriner.
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood.

LEAGUE FORM (LAST SIX):

Manchester City: WLWWDW

Liverpool: WWWWWW

TEAM NEWS

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The big injury news from the City camp remains the continued absence of Portuguese international Ruben Dias, who is on the way back from his thigh injury but the crucial clash this weekend will be too soon for a return.

Wonderkid Cole Palmer is also still absent from his ankle injury but was never in contention of starting this one, and Guardiola will welcome back a potentially rejuvenated Kyle Walker back from a Champions League ban.

Meanwhile, Liverpool welcomed Trent Alexander-Arnold back from a hamstring problem much quicker than initially anticipated, while Naby Keita shook off a knee issue to play 89 minutes against Benfica.

Fabinho came off in that game with a cut to the head but did not sustain a concussion at the incident, and Klopp announced at his press conference that he expects to have everyone fit and available for the top-of-the-table clash.

Konate put in a stellar showing at the Estadio da Luz before being at fault for Nunez’s effort and is sure to make way for Joel Matip, while Alexander-Arnold should be fit enough for another start on the right.

MATCH ANALYSIS

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Guardiola will have a dilemma on his hands come Sunday afternoon as he prepares to name his squad for the this hugely anticipated title encounter, and that is because of the instant impact Phil Foden made against Atletico Madrid coming on as a second half substitute and instantly providing the kind of creativity and decisive in the final third that Guardiola desperately craved against a stout and dogged Madrid side.

His first touch, half-turn and execution of the pass for Kevin De Bruyne to give City the lead was simply outstanding and again proved why Foden is and continually will be a pivotal figure for Manchester City. Can Guardiola afford to drop this Sunday? He probably can’t. In his last two appearances for City against Liverpool, Foden has stood out considerably, and again will form a crucial aspect of City’s game-plan as they aim to tackle Klopp’s mighty Reds.

Jurgen Klopp will be having his own selection headache over the weekend, with the impressive form of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz keeping his routine trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah on their toes in the German coach’s XI.

In fact, the latter has only scored once in his last seven games, a penalty against Brighton on March 12. In that period, Jota has registered four goals in his last seven with two coming in the Premier League, while Diaz has registered two goals and an assist.

Nonetheless, whoever Klopp starts on Sunday, the attacking weaponry at his disposal is certainly good and powerful enough to trouble any defence on the continent, even the Premier League’s best defensive outfit in Manchester City.

PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

PHIL FODEN

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Arguably the biggest English talent in the game right now, Phil Foden is a player for the here and now. The Stockport-born midfielder has enjoyed another fruitful campaign for Guardiola’s men, and his matched his goal tally from last season, recording 11 goals and nine assists in 37 games for Man City.

In fact, this season is the second successive campaign in which he’s contributed to 20+ goals after hitting 11 goals land 12 assists last term. His productivity under Guardiola’s tutelage has been nothing short of sensational and he’ll be aiming to prove just how good he is and that he is capable of consistently delivering in the big moments on Sunday.

His assist for Kevin De Bruyne on Tuesday night was sumptuous, showing quick and silky feet, slipping the ball between the legs of Renildo and into the path of the Belgian maestro to coolly slot in the corner.

Manchester City manager Guardiola said post-match: “Phil has a special quality (to change the game). His space in the first steps are massive and he had the composure to make an incredible assist to Kevin. Phil was brilliant, we knew it in the beginning.”

Let’s hope this glaring praise warrants a start for the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ on Sunday. City will certainly need him.

DIOGO JOTA

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Compelling cases have been made by Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané & Luis Díaz, but it’s likely to be the decision around Diogo Jota that keeps Klopp awake at night.

The pint-sized Portuguese is in red-hot goalscoring form for club and country but has frequently offered little else, often emerging from anonymity to deliver the dagger but that’s how good, potent and decisive he is.

Most times, Klopp doesn’t care about the overall performances of his attackers, he just wants them to make the difference, to provide the juice going forward, and Jota delivers on that expectation in abundance. The former Wolves man since his move to Anfield in the summer of 2020, he has scored 33 goals in 70 appearances.

Remember those days when he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo while at the Molineux? Well, those days are a distant memory, he’s now more lethal and clinical as ever, registering 14 Premier League goals, the best scoring campaign in his career.

Liverpool will be hoping to inflict a fatal defeat on their title rivals this weekend, and Diogo Jota will of course be central to those ambitions, don’t be surprised if its at the expense of the currently struggling Mo Salah.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz.

SCORE PREDICTION

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool

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