It’s finally here. Manchester City and Liverpool face-off in what is arguably the most pivotal fixture of the league so far. Both sides come in with a contrasting form, contrasting styles but similar ambitions and they stand in each other’s path to glory. The result is likely to have serious repercussions on who will lift the title in May. Here at Ball that Matters, we will be doing an in-depth preview of this title clash happening this game week.
Form and Buildup
Liverpool seemed like a team that had weathered a storm and bounced back after two wins against Spurs and West Ham. However, they relapsed into their old slump after another poor showing against a low-block Brighton side in midweek. Their form is an area of worry for manager Klopp. At the same time, he will find comfort in their unbeaten record against the top 6 sides in the league this season. Liverpool always turns up for big matches, and fans will be hoping that this time is no different.
Liverpool form guide: D-L-W-W-D
City on the other hand are flying. Guardiola’s side look like their 17/18 selves and have been crushing opponents with that characteristic ruthlessness which was missing earlier on this season. They have won their last 9 premier league fixtures and look unstoppable. As a result, they have solidified their hold on the top of the table and look like a team that is obsessed with winning. This match can go either way but City will be looking at the fixture with confidence.
Manchester City form guide: W-W-W-W-W
Team News and Lineups
There is plenty of positive news for Liverpool. Ozan Kabak is fit to feature after gaining international clearance. While Ben Davies is ready to appear after spending a few days getting used to the Liverpool way. Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker, and Fabinho are all fit once again and have appeared in normal training on Friday. The absentees are Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diogo Jota, and Joel Matip, all of whom are out with long term injuries. Naby Keita is also set to miss this key clash.
City is without their most important player in Kevin De Bruyne. The big Belgian is out with an injury that is expected to make him miss the majority of this month. They will also be without talisman Sergio Aguero, who has to be eased into action after illness and injuries.
Head to Head
Games between the two sides have been cagey more often than not as they have a great deal of respect for each other’s quality. The last time they faced off at the Etihad, it ended all square.
Manchester City has the edge if you look at the head-to-head meetings between the two sides, having won three out of the last six meetings.
Players To Watch For
Liverpool’s leader and legend Jordan Henderson will have a major impact on this game, irrespective of where he plays. The midfielder has filled in admirably at Center back over the past few days. He will be enabled to move back into his favoured position following Kabak’s arrival. His dangerous range of passing can unlock the resolute defense on Sunday. Also, his leadership on the pitch will be key to keeping his side in the game.
Mohamed Salah has been uncharacteristically streaky in this campaign. Despite that, he is the top scorer in the Premier League, which says a lot about the quality he possesses. He will mostly come up against Oleksander Zinchenko, who is the weakest link in the strong Manchester City defense and will need to capitalize when given the opportunity. After a poor showing against Brighton, our Egyptian King will be raring to make an impact against the champions-elect on Sunday.
The German has been one of City’s most consistent performers this season. After cementing his place in the City lineup, the midfielder has improved his attacking output and become one of the key creative sources in the absence of De Bruyne. His range of passing and his newfound goalscoring ability has seen him progress into one of the most threatening midfielders in the league and he will be important to City’s chances at victory on Sunday.
If there was an award for the best signing of 2020/21, it would definitely go to Ruben Dias. The Portuguese center back has had a transformative effect on the then leaky City defense and turned them into one of the best defenses in the world. His ability to block and intercept and his physical prowess have made him every attacker’s nightmare and he will be essential in stifling Liverpool’s famous from three on Sunday evening.
The consequences of the outcome of this game are huge. A Liverpool loss will effectively rule them out of the title race and severely dent their top 4 chances as well, while a win would bridge the gap to the top and move them within striking distance of the two Manchester clubs. The hype surrounding the clash is massive, and let’s hope this pivotal clash lives up to it. On paper, City are favourites but as a Liverpool fan, I’m backing the Reds to come home with the 3 points.
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