Liverpool suffered defeat against Crystal Palace, at Anfield, followed by a two week international break, so what is the ideal match to follow that? Erm, not Manchester City away. And yet, it might be ideal – as expectations will be low, some of the Reds’ key players have had time to rest and train, others are closer to returning from injury and we’ve fared better away from home this season, especially considering the fixture difficulty. Pellegrini’s team, though, are rightly favourites to win the league, have been scoring plenty of goals, as well as having the best underlying defensive numbers.
The only real answer to who is and isn’t available is: doubtful. The home side could potentially see Aguero, Silva, Kompany, Zabaleta, Bony and Nasri return; or, choose to stick with Sagna, Sterling, De Bruyne, Otamendi and Navas. So your guess is as good as mine.
Sturridge is back in training, but unlikely to play. Henderson is in a similar position but further away for match fitness. Ibe and Milner have also returned to full training after recovering from minor knocks, but Flanagan, Gomez and Ings are all still sidelined. Sakho is also out (sad face), but not long term as was initially feared (happier, but still concerned, face).
This is usually one of the more interesting tactical battles in the Premier League, especially against a fully fit Manchester City side (that might not include Sterling – because you just bloody know he’s going to ping one into the top corner from outside the area for the first time ever in his life). However, because of their injury concerns, and the doubts over a number of players, it is harder to predict how they will set up. Regardless of team selection though, it is likely that the home team will dominate possession, which offers a bit of dilemma to Klopp: sitting deep (with added Lovren), protecting the back four and trying to hit the Citizens on the counter with direct balls to Benteke, who could set up Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana who should be close to the striker. This strategy would allow Lucas and Can to provide a bit more stability ahead of Skrtel and Lovren, restrict the space for Toure, De Bruyne and possibly Silva and Sterling, to work in and create chances.
The other option is to push the defensive line as high as possible, putting pressure on Manchester City’s possession-based attacking patterns. This means Moreno and Clyne higher up the field, Lovren and Skrtel towards the halfway line; Lucas and Can becoming part of the pressing, along with the front four. The full-backs will also be crucial in providing the overlap and width because of the Reds’ lack of a natural winger (although swapping Ibe for Lallana would provide that option on the right). The front three behind Benteke should be fluid in terms of movement (what Mihail from The Tomkins Times calls “a whirlpool”). Personally, I have no idea which is the better option, but Lovren and Skrtel, in a high defensive line, with Sterling, Navas, or De Bruyne running behind them frightens me to death; but sitting deep might invite Manchester City to just rip us apart because of their excellent movement and ability to break down a parked bus. Maybe a hybrid of both?
Team Defensive Stats – 2015/16
Team Attacking Stats – 2015/16
- Man City have won four and lost none of their last six Premier League games against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
- The Reds have lost just one of their last six Premier League away games (W2 D3 L1), but that came in Manchester at Old Trafford v Man Utd.
- Manchester City have fired in the most shots on target of any team in the Premier League (83).
- Philippe Coutinho has scored three goals in four Premier League appearances against Man City.
- Only opposing goalkeeper Joe Hart (14) has kept more Premier League clean sheets in 2015 than Simon Mignolet (13).
- Philippe Coutinho has scored as many goals in his last two Premier League appearances under Jurgen Klopp as his final 18 under Brendan Rodgers.
- Source: StatsZone
Manchester City: Key Stats
Manchester City have scored at least twice in 12 out of 13 of their recent home matches, which worries me greatly. Especially with Sakho out, and other crucial players still unavailable. However, if Sterling wears his normal shooting boots, and starts up front, I’m not convinced this will trouble us as much as a fully fit Aguero and Silva; so grasping at that slight weakness for dear life, I’m going to stick my neck out, put my optimistic hat on, plunge my head into the tribal sand and plump for a draw, probably with goals. Have that…