Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Prediction: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best odds: 43/100

Bookmaker: ZetBet

Marking the final Premier League meeting between Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, Liverpool and Manchester City, the only two teams to have won the title in the last six seasons, will do battle for the top spot at Anfield on Sunday.

With only a point separating the two sides, there’s no real need to explain the competitive significance of the clash, particularly as Arsenal sit a point behind second-place City, almost guaranteeing a thrilling race down to the final round.

Liverpool

Having had an unusually poor 2022/23 campaign, Liverpool are currently involved in the Europa League, rather than the Champions League, and they welcome City on the back of a 5-1 victory over Sparta in Prague in the first leg of their encounter in the round of 16 of the competition.

Alexis Mac Allister (penalty), Darwin Nunez (twice), Luis Diaz and Dominik Szoboszlai were all on the score-sheet, as was Conor Bradley who was unfortunate enough to put the ball in the back of his own net.

Despite contending with numerous injury problems over the last month or two, Liverpool have only been beaten twice in the Premier League this season, both in North London, and while Arsenal claimed a rather comprehensive victory at the Emirates at the start of February, Tottenham Hotspur managed to beat the Merseysiders through a string of contentious refereeing calls that saw a perfectly valid goal ruled out and two players sent off back in September.

Since losing to Arsenal, Klopp’s men have played four league matches, winning all of them and scoring at least three goals in every one but a 1-0 victory away to Nottingham Forest. On the other hand, that game at the City Ground also marks the only occasion in that span on which they managed to keep a clean sheet.

With the Carabao Cup in the bag, the Reds will be looking to continue their quest to lift as much silverware as possible as they say goodbye to their long-serving manager at the end of the season, and though it won’t really determine the eventual outcome of the title race, beating the defending champions in front of a packed Anfield would surely be a great boost, both in terms of points and morale.

Team News

For Joel Matip the season is over due to an ACL injury, and with his contract expiring in June, it remains to be seen if he ever plays for the club again. The same goes for Thiago Alcantara, who has only played about 15 minutes in one game this term. Stefan Bajcetic is out as well, as are Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold, both with knee injuries. There will be no Alisson Becker in goal either. Midfielders Curtis Jones and Ryan Gravenberch are unavailable too.

Klopp has confirmed that taking off Joe Gomez in Prague was merely to let the defender catch some breath after playing a lot of games, and there should be no problems for Sunday. On the other hand, the German tactician couldn’t confirm as much for Ibrahima Konate. The best news for Liverpool at the moment is that Mohamed Salah is 100% fit and ready to play.

The ongoing injury crisis could continue providing opportunities for Bradley and Jarrell Quansah, though the latter might remain on the bench if Klopp decides to revert Gomez to his natural role alongside Virgil van Dijk. Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, on brilliant form at the moment, is certain starter.

Manchester City

After what appeared a bit of a performance crisis as they struggled with injuries of their own, Manchester City appear to be back at their usual level. Apart from Chelsea, who snatched a point at the Etihad in mid-February, no opponent in any competition has managed to end a game against them with anything to show for their efforts.

Earlier this week, City stamped their passport for the Champions League quarterfinals as they beat FC Copenhagen at home by 3-1, repeating the scoreline from the first leg in Denmark. All four goals of the game came in the first half, the work of Manuel Akanji, Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland, and former Southampton winger Mohamed Elyounoussi for the visitors.

With 18 goals and five assists in 22 Premier League matches this season, Haaland is arguably the name that stands out as the biggest threat for Liverpool’s defence on Sunday. However, it should also be said that playmaker-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne has been on fire since his return from injury in mid-January.

Following a run of three games where they scored only once in each, City appear to have gathered attacking momentum, putting six past Luton Town in the FA Cup, three past city rivals Manchester United last week, and three past Copenhagen. However, they didn’t keep a clean sheet in any of those games.

A victory at Anfield would obviously be a great statement and somewhat of a sour contribution to Klopp’s farewell months at Liverpool by the defending champions, while taking the title race back into their own hands.

Team News

The only position in the pitch that may force manager Pep Guardiola to do some reshuffling is the left wing, with Jack Grealish unlikely to play and Jeremy Doku still marked as a doubt. Midfielder Matheus Nunes could also miss out, though a dislocated finger probably won’t keep him from contention for Anfield.

Nonetheless, Nunes will surely have to settle for a place on the bench, with Rodri, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne the obvious choices in the middle of the park. Haaland will lead the line upfront, with in-form Phil Foden on his right. Nathan Ake will probably play on the left defensive flank, with his main job being to try and stifle Salah. With Kyle Walker on the right, the place in the heart of defence alongside Ruben Dias will be decided between Akanji and John Stones.

Conclusion

Looking strictly at the football side of things, mainly performance levels and injury problems, City should be named favourites to win and overtake Liverpool in the Premier League table. However, it’s never that simple when playing at Anfield, as Guardiola himself often says.

Born on the wings of support from the stands, Liverpool could suddenly wake up to knock City out in a shocking manner, as has happened before. On the other hand, City might do things at their best level this time around, and if so, they should be able to take control and win. All in all, there’s really no way to call the contest in advance.

The one thing that seems very likely to happen is both Kelleher and Ederson taking the ball out of their respective nets, at least once each.

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best odds: 43/100

Bookmaker: ZetBet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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