Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 12/25
Things have gone back to the way they were for a large part of the last five years in the Premier League, with Manchester City sitting at the top and Liverpool breathing down their necks. After 12 rounds, only a point separates the two sides, and on Saturday, another exciting clash between them will take place at the Etihad.
In a highly anticipated reunion at Stamford Bridge, Cole Palmer, Raheem Sterling, and Mateo Kovacic each faced their former clubs, each having moved on to different shades of blue since the conclusion of the 2021/22 season. The stage was set for one of them to potentially become the hero in West London.
Raheem Sterling indeed haunted his old club by scoring Chelsea’s second goal during the match and putting in a fantastic individual performance throughout. However, it was Cole Palmer who inflicted further damage on City, maintaining his composure from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of second-half injury time to seal an eight-goal spectacle and conclude the thrilling 4-4 draw.
Despite City’s commendable four goals, courtesy of Erling Haaland’s brace, a Manuel Akanji header, and a deflected Rodri strike, Pep Guardiola’s side saw their five-game winning streak come to an end in that exhilarating contest. Consequently, they entered the third break of the season with only a one-point lead at the league’s summit.
With upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Arsenal, both trailing closely behind the reigning champions, City face potential threats to their league position. Depending on the outcome of their clash, they could also be caught by Tottenham Hotspur or Aston Villa. Nonetheless, their ability to score four goals at Stamford Bridge reflects their potency, having scored at least three goals in each of their last five matches.
Moreover, City have been dominant at home. Since a 1-1 draw with Everton on New Year’s Eve 2022, they boast a remarkable record of 15 wins from 15 Premier League matches at the Etihad in 2023. Their overall winning streak at home stands at an impressive 23 matches in all competitions, indicating their formidable strength when playing in front of their home crowd.
The City supporters eagerly await updates on Haaland’s condition in the next 48 hours, as the Golden Boot winner was absent from Norway’s final Euro 2024 qualifier against Scotland due to an ankle problem resembling the one he suffered in City’s recent match against Bournemouth.
Ederson is also facing uncertainty due to a foot concern, while Nathan Ake (knock) and Sergio Gomez (ankle) require closer assessment ahead of the upcoming game. Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Mateo Kovacic (thigh), John Stones (thigh), and Matheus Nunes, who was deemed “clinically unfit” during his time with Portugal, are expected to miss the match.
Although Julian Alvarez is a capable alternative for Haaland, the Argentina international, along with several other South American players, faces a tight turnaround from international duties. On the other hand, Haaland is reportedly growing more confident about his fitness and is optimistic about leading the attack for the champions in the upcoming blockbuster.
City have an opportunity to equal Sunderland’s long-standing record of 24 consecutive home wins, a record set between 1890 and 1892. However, the prospect of this historic milestone will surely serve as added motivation for a resurgent Liverpool side aiming to rectify their recent performances in this fixture.
After losing their “best-of-the-rest” status to Arsenal last season, Liverpool find themselves once again challenging City for top honors, narrowly trailing the league leaders by virtue of scoring just one more goal than Arsenal. The team mostly owes their current second-place standing to the contributions of Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota.
Liverpool’s recent victory against Brentford saw Alisson Becker showcasing goalkeeping heroics in a match where the Reds’ defence remained unbeaten, allowing Salah to secure a landmark brace before Jota’s exceptional curler sealed the victory in front of the Kop.
Jurgen Klopp’s priority is to address Liverpool’s underwhelming away record, having secured just one win in their last five road games. The Merseysiders have struggled defensively, failing to secure a clean sheet in Premier League away fixtures since May and experiencing vulnerability in their last three top-flight away contests.
Liverpool’s recent trips to the Etihad Stadium have resulted in disappointing outcomes, notably a 3-2 defeat last December in the EFL Cup and a 4-1 loss in April. Additionally, their last Premier League victory at the Etihad dates back to November 2015, during Klopp’s early tenure as the team’s manager, though they did triumph away to City in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 2018.
Klopp’s options should be boosted with several players returning to team training on Thursday, namely Ryan Gravenberch (knee), Joe Gomez (knock), Curtis Jones (hamstring) and Ibrahima Konate (hamstring).
However, all of Thiago Alcantara (hip), Stefan Bajcetic (calf) and Andrew Robertson (shoulder) will not be at Klopp’s disposal, and the Reds boss will need to conduct once-overs on his South American troupe of Luis Diaz, Alisson, Darwin Nunez and Alexis Mac Allister, the latter of whom is also back from suspension.
While there is nothing to suggest that the quartet will not be involved at the Etihad as they’re all back in training as well, Klopp may keep Nunez and Diaz in reserve as Jota and Cody Gakpo link arms with Salah, who registered his 200th goal in English football against Brentford and needs just one more to hit the 150 mark in the Premier League.
When these two teams meet, it’s usually a thrilling contest, though there have been some convincing victories on both sides as well. City’s home advantage and the fact that they’ve looked better this season so far makes them slight favourites to win and extend their lead over Liverpool at the top of the table.
However, Liverpool are certainly capable of squaring up to the reigning champions, and it’s hard to imagine either goalkeeper walking away with a clean sheet.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 12/25
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