Sunday 19th March 2017- 16:00- Sky Sports 1 HD
In what is undoubtedly the game of the weekend, 3rd place Manchester City take on 4th place Liverpool with just 1 point separating the 2 teams. It has been another tough week for Pep Guardiola in what has been a baptism of fire in England. The Spaniard was brought to the Etihad to win the Champions League and make City a force at the European level of the game. However, for the first time in his career, a Guardiola side were knocked out at the last 16, as City succumbed to a 3-1 loss to Monaco and went out on away goals.
So his attention turns to making sure that City qualify for next year’s competition, something that is far from guaranteed at this stage. However, a victory over Liverpool would put 4 points between the sides. City have also had a good run in the league as of late, having won 4 of their last 5 league games, drawing a blank with Stoke at the Etihad, their only blemish. But, City will be aware of how well Liverpool have played against the top 6 teams this season. Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners the last time these 2 teams met back on New Year’s Eve, and they have yet to lose against any of the top 6 this season.
Guardiola will also have to try to figure out a way of playing from the back, as Liverpool like to play high pressing football under Jurgen Klopp, and this is what undid City the last time the 2 teams met. Depending on how results go, City could find themselves in 4th place by the end of the weekend.
Vincent Kompany is likely to miss out for Man City while Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan are long-term absentees. City might want to change up their back 4 as well, following another lacklustre performance against Monaco.
The back to back league wins over Arsenal and Burnley, were the first for Liverpool in 2017, it also gave them some breathing room between 4th and 5th place. Despite the victory over City at Anfield in December, Klopp was under no illusions about the challenge facing his side on Sunday:
“For it’s the most difficult team to play, City. I know the image in the country at this moment is a little bit different, but it’s real football and it’s difficult to defend them. A lot teams felt it already. But when you can win the ball there are few spaces which maybe you can use. We know what we have to do there.”
“We will try everything to do the right things. It could be a fantastic game to watch — good news.”
With City 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea in the title race, Klopp said Guardiola needed time to adjust to the challenges English football poses.
“The squad and Pep Guardiola at Barcelona was the perfect model for a win-win situation — all these ideas and these players who can, obviously, fulfil all the plans you have. It was an outstanding combination,” Klopp added.
“People who know more about Bayern Munich would say that’s another really good generation that they had — good players at the best age and all that stuff.
“I am not in doubt about his quality. Maybe a few other people are, but I’m not. I respect him really a lot and I can say it’s quite difficult to play his teams.”
A positive result against Pep Guardiola’s side would prove to be even more meaningful for Liverpool, given that the Anfield club has had an alarmingly inconsistent season.
While City are currently enjoying an 11-game unbeaten run, Liverpool have won just four of their last 14 outings across all competitions.
Liverpool have been hampered by injuries, however. Influential captain Jordan Henderson will miss the tie with a foot injury, along with Daniel Sturridge (calf), Ovie Ejaria (ankle), Danny Ings (knee) and Adam Bogdan (ACL). Roberto Firmino is a doubt because of a thigh injury, though he did recently attend a light training session.
Centre back Dejan Lovren, meanwhile, is back to full fitness ahead of the trip to Manchester, after playing a full hour for the U-23 team. The Croatian has missed his side’s last five matches, which included defeats to Hull City and Leicester City.
Other Premier League Fixtures: