Competition/Round: 2018/19 English Premier League Season – Matchday 21
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, United Kingdom
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Martin Atkinson
TV Info: Sky Sports Premier League (UK); NBCSN (USA)
Live Stream: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Fubo.tv (USA) Fubo.tv shows every Manchester City game with a high-quality and legal stream. New to Fubo.tv? Click here to sign up at a discounted rate.
Radio: BBC World Service, BBC Radio Manchester (UK); SeriesXM FC TalkSport Radio World (USA)
This season’s English Premier League title favourites will come head-to-head on Matchday 21. Manchester City will host Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
Originally tipped to be the first team to retain the EPL title since the 2008/09 season, Manchester City were running rampant at the start of this season. The Blues earned convincing wins against Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, and overcame many of their weaker opponents. They also drew Liverpool in what was the first time the Blues earned a point at Anfield since 2012. In short, things were going well for City.
A series of injuries and a lapse in focus, however, saw the Blues drop points in December. Having previously been two points above Liverpool, City have now fallen seven points behind the Scousers, the EPL’s current league leaders.
City manager Pep Guardiola has blamed a lack of confidence as the source for their recent slump, but whatever the reason, the Blues are not themselves. Should the English champions look to retain the EPL title, they cannot afford another slipup on Thursday.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have been in dreamland. The Reds remain undefeated in the EPL this season, winning 17 of their 20 matches and drawing the other three. They have kept 12 clean sheets and are averaging 2.4 goals per game. Simply put, they have been remarkable.
The Scousers have their transfer activity to thank for their performance. Having acquired Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andrew Robertson during the 2017/18 season, and purchasing Alisson, Naby Keïta, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer of 2018, Liverpool could win their first EPL title. They may even rival the City Centurions or the Arsenal Invincibles.
Overall, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has made several important changes to his side, and the results have shown. Can they continue their winning streak at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday? Or will City close the gap?
Manchester City suffered a major setback in November as they lost left-back Benjamin Mendy to injury. During his absence, City have been exposed on the left side of the field, as substitutes Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko cannot replicate the Frenchman’s style of play. Delph, having earned a red card in the match against Leicester, is suspended for this fixture.
Moreover, the Blues have been without Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva for a large portion of this season. Without their star men, the Mancunian club uncharacteristically lost to Crystal Palace and Leicester City, and thus lost ground in the title race. It is likely Fernandinho and David Silva will return for the Liverpool match, however, giving the Blues a massive boost.
De Bruyne will remain sidelined due to injury. Claudio Bravo will also not feature in this match.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have lost several players to injury. Alberto Moreno, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dominic Solanke, James Milner and Joel Matip will be sidelined for this fixture. Despite this setback, the Reds are running rampant in the league.
The Reds will continue to extend their lead. The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané will look to punish City’s leaky defence. Having scored five goals between the three of them in the recent match against Arsenal, this trio will look to add to their tally on Thursday.
Finally, should the match against City remain goalless at halftime, it is expected unsung heroes Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge will be introduced into the game.
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Danilo; B. Silva, Fernandinho, D. Silva; Sterling, Agüero, Sané
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Manager: Jürgen Klopp
As Klopp’s system continues to take effect, a quick glance would favour Liverpool on Thursday.
If there is any reason for City to be optimistic, however, it is that they have history and experience on their side. Since the formation of the English Premier League in 1992, Liverpool have never won the league. Moreover, in its 26 years of existence, the Reds have only challenged for the title on two occasions. During this period, the Scousers were top of the table on Christmas Day. A series of poor performances, however, saw them concede the top spot on both occasions.
Liverpool, like City, have their vulnerabilities. Chelsea eliminated Liverpool in the third round of the EFL “Carabao” Cup. The Scousers also struggled in their UEFA Champions League Group C, losing three of their six matches against Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli and Crvena Zvezda. These examples demonstrate Liverpool can be beaten.
If Manchester City hope to keep pace with Liverpool in the title race, the Blues will have to be at their best. City need to replicate their form from last season and demonstrate why they are the current champions of England.
Most importantly, City know that if they do not earn a result on Thursday the title will be lost. With a lot at stake, Guardiola will push his side in order to win this fixture. In other words, the Catalan will not allow his men to be beaten.
Therefore, it is predicted this will be a cagey affair. By fulltime, however, the Blues will edge the Reds on Matchday 21. An ambitious prediction, but stranger things have happened.
Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool