NASHVILLE, TN – JULY 29: Manchester City poses for a team photo prior to the first half of the 2017 International Champions Cup Presented by Heineken against Tottenham at Nissan Stadium on July 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images/AFP
The Premier League returns at lunch time tomorrow with a mouth-watering clash at the Etihad where Manchester City will host Liverpool. The two sides have started their campaigns in solid fashion and both will be looking to take an early advantage over the other and lay down a marker for their ultimate intention this season. Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp set up their teams somewhat similarly last season, denying their opponents time on the ball and the stats backed their styles of play as both teams led the league in terms of the possession they enjoyed. City had the ball an average of 61% of time, while Liverpool was a close second with 58%. As they prepare to face each other this weekend, both teams will be thinking of ways to exploit each other’s weaknesses.
Liverpool arguably possess two of the fastest wide players in European football in Saido Mane and Mo Salah and if any of them can find themselves isolated in one-on-one situations with either of the Manchester City centre backs, then there could be plenty of goal-scoring opportunities.
Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi are not the fastest defenders in the league and would do well not to often find themselves isolated against Liverpool’s speedy Africans. Guardiola used a back three in defence for the first couple of games of the season, but switched to a back four with the return of Benjamin Mendy from injury in their recent 2-1 win against Bournemouth.
A win will be very important for either Guardiola or Klopp because it would send the victors top of the table, at least until Manchester United play later in the day, and neither manager will want to lose further ground on the Red Devils, who have started the campaign with a 100% record.
Guardiola has his fully fit squad with just the exception of long term absentee Ilkay Gundogan, while Kyle Walker returns from suspension, but Raheem Sterling will not be available to take on his old side after he was sent off in their last game before the international break. Liverpool new boy, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain should make an appearance at some point during the game if he doesn’t get to start, while Phillip Coutinho should be re-integrated back into the squad after recovering from his ‘mysterious back injury’ and scoring for Brazil during the international break, but might not be a part of this game.
Fatigue could also play a large part in team selection for this game as both teams had 32 squad members, who travelled more than 185,000 miles during the international break, between them. The managers will also have their midweek fixtures in their thoughts when making team selections as the two sides begin their Champions League campaigns on Wednesday, with Liverpool hosting Sevilla and Man City away at Feyenoord.
This fixture has always produced goals, well, except for last season when we witnessed two low scoring affairs, Liverpool winning 1-0 at Anfield with the return leg at the Etihad ending in a 1-1 stalemate. The previous nine Premier League meetings between the sides saw three or more goals; with both teams scoring in seven of them. Pep Guardiola will be looking to get a victory over Jurgen Klopp in this fixture to level up on their head-to-head meetings.
Manchester City haven’t won at home this season as the two wins they have gotten so far have both been away from home and they could only draw against Everton in their solitary game played at the Etihad. They would love to get their first home win of the season against a strong team like Liverpool, who have won both their home games, including a 4-0 demolition of Arsenal, however, they have drawn their only away game of the season so far, a frantic 3-3 clash against Watford at Vicarage road on the opening day of the campaign. If we are to go by this home and away forms shown by both teams then we should be expecting a draw, right? I don’t think so, games against these teams are not that easy to predict so we will find out tomorrow.