The Sky Blues' second half performance was acceptable but ultimately unsuccessful. Their play in the first half was dull, if not confusing.
Both Liverpool and City see a top-four finish as absolutely essential. Although there are plenty of points to be won between now and the end of the season, Sunday’s match is bound to be highly important.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Stable Selection?
Yaya Touré’s absence from the side at Monaco was detrimental to City’s transitions. Whatever the reason, Pep Guardiola obviously wants to make flexibility of formation and individual positioning a strength for City.
With commitments in the FA Cup and Champions League over the last few weeks, City have had a schedule that makes the Boxing Day craziness look easy.
As this group of players work toward the conclusion of the campaign, their ability to adapt to shifts in personnel while still engaging teams with a signature style will make a major difference.
2 - What They Learned
The players and coaches will be working to learn and adjust after a lackluster performance in the first 45 minutes against Monaco.
Fernandinho couldn’t serve the necessary transitional functions alone. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva weren’t able to connect the pitch. Monaco’s passes moved too fast for City’s feet.
By using De Bruyne as more of a deep playmaker in the second half, stepping more aggressively and connecting to each other with more confidence, the Blues have already redeemed themselves to a certain degree.
Their ability to turn the tides on Liverpool will reveal a lot about the team's mental and physical fortitude.
3 - Strength in the Boxes
The awful mantra began echoing again after the trip to Monaco. The team has shown significant improvement at both ends of the pitch since January, but took a step back against the Ligue 1 leaders.
A lack of distribution hampered Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané in the first half, while poor decision making allowed Monaco to close them down on all but one occasion in the final period of the match.
Sergio Agüero has been making a point of his importance in Gabriel Jesus’ absence with a number of goals and an incredible work rate throughout the games. He also helped City get on the right track in the second half in France, but was either blocked or otherwise frustrated in front of the goal.
Ultimately, the comprehensive coordination that Guardiola desires will reinforce their strengths at both ends of the pitch.
Regardless of their intermittent woes, these two teams stand with pride at the heights of England’s top flight. As the current season twists and turns, Liverpool’s arrival at the Etihad will force the Blues to fight hard for three points before the international break.