City have been wobbling; Liverpool are flying.
No one could have guessed that Man City would enter this game having lost three of their last five Premier League matches. They are now seven points behind league-leaders Liverpool, who just keep on winning.
After appearing to be strong favourites to retain their Premier League title, doubts have surfaced for City. Not only have they lost three of their last five league matches, but they have failed to keep a clean sheet in six.
On the upside, they have scored in 11 of their last 12 league games (33 goals scored in those games), their only blank coming against Chelsea on December 8th.
Liverpool have won their last eight matches in all competitions and ten of their last 11. They have kept eight clean sheets in those 11 matches. The form of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson has been particularly impressive. If you haven’t seen the video clip of Alisson training this week, it’s worth a look. You can view it here:
Mignolet be like "I'm out"…😂
Those saves from Alisson 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GlWqMPEkCg
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) December 27, 2018
Remarkably, Liverpool have conceded just eight goals in their 20 Premier League matches this season and scored 48.
Fernandinho’s absence in midfield has again revealed how important he is to City. David Silva has also been missed, while Kevin de Bruyne is still getting himself back to full match-fitness and, to a lesser degree, Sergio Agüero.
It is a game that City need to win. They held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield in October but their mindset approaching this game will be different. A draw at Anfield was of more value to them at the time than it was for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s formation and style of play have come together nicely. Everyone knows what they need to do and are doing it well. If it’s not Henderson, Milner (who is hopeful of being fit for the match) and Wijnaldum in midfield it can be Keïta, Fabinho and Shaqiri. Shaqiri can slot in up front, too, if required.
Injuries to Gomez and Matip have been covered by Lovren, while Trent Alexander-Arnold has quickly recovered from a recent injury.
Their forward-line – Salah, Firmino and Mané – is, of course, fantastic. Add in a charismatic manager and what’s not to like about this team?
Man City – There was the welcome news this week that Fernandinho is back in training following a thigh injury picked up against Chelsea. His presence is crucial to the side; no one in the squad protects the back-four and bosses the midfield like he does.
Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are both available and David Silva came on for twenty minutes against Leicester so he is likely to be available, too.
Liverpool – Moreno is fit again, Solanke (who could be leaving the club in January) will miss out through injury but, as mentioned earlier, Milner is hopeful of being in contention.
There was good news this week that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is recovering well from his knee injury sustained in last season’s Champions League semi-final first leg.
City need to win so it is unlikely to be goalless. Their approach will be different to the cautious one adopted at Anfield earlier in the season, while Liverpool may adopt the approach that City took that day. A point wouldn’t be a bad result for them.
With Fernandinho, Agüero, De Bruyne and David Silva all back in contention to play, City are nearing full strength once again. They will also be smarting after recent setbacks. Furthermore, Pep Guardiola has said that he has seen a good response in training.
All things considered, I think that Man City are going to get back to winning ways. 2-0, 2-1 or 3-1 are scores that, for me, seem most likely. Sergio Agüero is recommended as a first or anytime scorer.
Man City to win
Anytime scorer – Agüero