Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from a deflating 3-1 (6-6 on aggregate, away goals) defeat against Monaco in midweek as they host Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola’s side have only lost one Premier League game in 2017, a surprise 4-0 defeat against Ronald Koeman’s impressive Everton side back in mid-January.
Liverpool meanwhile, find themselves in a tricky position with ten matches remaining. Arsenal and Manchester United occupy 5th and 6th currently, but both have two games in hand over Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Their inconsistent form since the turn of the year has seen their potential title charge deteriorate rapidly in the space of a few weeks. Now, the Reds will be battling hard to earn a top-four finish – this year will be the second since 2008/09 that they’ve qualified for the Champions League if they remain there come May.
Only a point separates the two sides ahead of kick-off and it’s very much an important fixture for both given how close it is within the top six as you can clearly see in the Man City V Liverpool betting odds.
Team news and tactical battles
Guardiola’s side will be eager for a quick response after such a disappointing end to their Champions League campaign this term, not least given their two-goal aggregate lead ahead of the second-leg.
Pep gambled with a more attack-minded eleven on that occasion but could be forced to revert back to basics here. Nicolas Otámendi has looked shaky alongside John Stones as their centre-back pairing and although it’s clear they miss Vincent Kompany, it’d be a signal of intent for the Belgian to return now.
He has returned to first-team training but didn’t travel with the matchday squad in midweek. Aleksandar Kolarov doesn’t have the concentration levels or positional awareness to convincingly keep Liverpool’s attackers at bay for sustained periods, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens on that front.
In midfield, City have looked impressive in flashes. Fernandinho will probably be afforded more protection than he has done recently in a lone holding role ahead of the backline. Yaya Touré should return to the fray having watched their defeat from the substitutes’ bench, whilst Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling have proven a handful for defenders to deal with so should start as usual.
Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva have been inconsistent recently, so it’s possible one will be dropped as they cannot afford any passengers out of possession against a Liverpool side who will soak up pressure and counter where possible.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Clichy, Stones, Otámendi, Zabaleta; Fernandinho, Toure; Sané, Sterling, de Bruyne; Aguero.
As for Sunday’s visitors, they have a few injuries to contend with too. Jordan Henderson (foot) and Daniel Sturridge (hip) are both sidelined. Roberto Firmino might return from the groin strain that kept him out of their 2-1 win over Burnley last weekend, whilst Ovie Ejaria and Danny Ings are long-term absentees.
Liverpool came back from a goal deficit against Burnley to prevail and seem to reserve their best quality for more challenging opposition. City will be an unpredictable test but not an impossible one: in their last meeting, they battled hard for a 1-0 victory.
Georginio Wijnaldum is proving an important part of Klopp’s workaholic jigsaw and Philippe Coutinho needs to be playing in more of a free role behind the striker, in order to really affect the game across attacking areas.
Divock Origi has excelled when given his opportunities in recent months so should start again, whilst Firmino and Mané can combine to stretch City’s fullbacks – who have tendencies to struggle against tricky wingers. It’s likely that Klopp will start a similar eleven against City, with one or two doubts to take into consideration beforehand.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner; Wijnaldum, Can, Coutinho; Mané, Firmino, Origi.by