This weekend brings one of the most significant matches the Premier League have ever seen. League leaders Manchester City will face off against 2nd placed Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in what seemingly could be the title decider. Pep Guardiola’s men will take on Jurgen Klopp’s side on Sunday the 10th of April – the match will kick off at 16:30 (GMT) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event.
In his press conference – Guardiola confirmed that Ruben Dias is ruled out of Sunday’s fixture with Liverpool. The Catalan stated that City have a fully fit squad, apart from Ruben Dias and Cole Palmer. Dias was last seen for City in the FA Cup 5th round tie with Peterborough at the start of March, the Portuguese international has spent the last 5 weeks on the sideline due to a hamstring injury.
Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden
League position: 1st
Top scorer: De Bruyne, Mahrez, Sterling (10)
Previous result: W 1-0 Atletico Madrid (H)
With just one point separating the two sides, the gravity of this match is monumental. City are chasing back-to-back titles for the second time under Guardiola and have been serial winners of the competition since the Catalan took charge of the side. Nonetheless, this current season is living proof of the difficulty of the English top-flight. The Blues have played 30 league matches this season and have only lost 3, yet there is only one point to separate City and Liverpool. The Reds have pushed City to their absolute limit so far this season, and the quality of the title race this campaign has been remarkable.
Comparisons must be made with the 18/19 season when City pipped Liverpool to the title by just one point. The Blues attained an incredible 98 points that season, with Klopp’s men just falling short with 97 points. City fans will look back on the victory over Liverpool at the Etihad as the catalyst for that title victory. A 2-1 win at the Etihad, followed by a miraculous run of 16 wins from 17 league games. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane were enough to see off the Reds on that famous Thursday night at the Etihad.
The Blues are in the middle of a season-defining fortnight. Guardiola’s men must navigate the Champions League quarter-final tie with Atletico Madrid, a title decider against Liverpool and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, also against Liverpool.
The dreaded fortnight got off to a decent start against Atletico, beating the Spaniards 1-0 at the Etihad. Diego Simeone set his side up to be incredibly difficult to break down with a low block. City found the all-important breakthrough when Phil Foden slipped Kevin De Bruyne through with a fantastic pass, for the Belgian to dispatch the opportunity emphatically. City were restricted to only 2 shots on target – nonetheless, were by far the better side. The Blues had 71% possession and completed 696 passes, with a passing accuracy of 90%. For the first time in Simeone’s 11-year career, the Argentine’s side didn’t manage a single shot in the whole match. Guardiola will be expecting a different animal in the second leg, as Atletico are unlikely to just roll over.
De Bruyne’s goal against Atletico Madrid was his 13th in all competitions this season. The Belgian also has 8 assists, meaning he has 21 goal contributions this season. De Bruyne is certainly the man for the big occasions this season, scoring a brace against Manchester United, the only goal in a 1-0 win over Chelsea, and an 81st-minute equaliser at Anfield in a 2-2 draw in October. City’s number 17 has also been named man of the match in 58% of the Champions League matches he has played for the Blues, winning the award 29 times from 50 matches. Guardiola will need De Bruyne more than ever this Sunday, the Belgian international has 2 goals and 5 assists against Liverpool throughout his career.
Guardiola’s substitutes made an instant impact in the week. Firstly, Jack Grealish, who came on for Ilkay Gundogan in the 68th minute, and was fouled 5 times in the space of 22 minutes. Rodrigo De Paul was yellow carded for a challenge on Grealish just seconds after he came onto the pitch. Even more influential was Foden, who instantly broke the lines with an excellent turn, and assisted De Bruyne with a delightful through ball. The England international now has 11 goals and 9 assists in all competitions, an impressive tally for the young star.
Sunday’s match is a massive opportunity for the Blues to create some space between them and Liverpool. City’s final seven matches are by no means a walk in the park; however, a four-point gap would be very significant at this stage of the season. Some could argue that Liverpool have a less favourable run in as they are still yet to play Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds must also play rivals Everton, a side that are in desperate need of points. Despite some tricky fixtures, Liverpool will still be expected to pick up maximum points from their final seven games, meaning a win on Sunday for City is pivotal.
League position: 2nd
Top scorer: Salah (20)
Previous result: W 1-3 Benfica (A)
Klopp’s men are breathing down the league leaders’ necks, just one point behind. Liverpool’s exceptional recent form has allowed them to gain momentum heading into the business end of the season, making this a very tricky fixture for City. The Reds have won a staggering 11 league matches in a row, narrowing the gap at the top of the table. A win for Liverpool would leave them 2 points clear with just 7 games to go, an opportunity that Klopp will refuse to let slip away.
In their previous outing, Liverpool got a handy 3-1 away win over Benfica in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz have given the Reds a massive advantage going into the return leg. Klopp did not need a second invitation to give a few of his top players some much-needed rest, with Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah all making way after just 61 minutes. Klopp also made the decision to start the match with Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, and Joel Matip all on the bench. Squad rotation will be key for Liverpool in their chase for the seemingly impossible ‘quadruple’. The Reds were largely dominant against Benfica, having 17 shots, and 66% possession. Jota had the opportunity to put the tie to bed in the 97th minute, however, couldn’t convert his chance. Bringing a 4-1 lead back to Anfield would have been a luxurious position for them to be in – however, it wasn’t to be.
In all competitions, Liverpool have kept 5 clean sheets in 7 games, conceding just 2 goals. Goalkeeper Allison has had an excellent season and is often the man to thank for such an impressive defensive record. The Brazilian has a save percentage this season of 76% and has 17 clean sheets in the league this season, which is the joint-most along with Ederson. Another player that Liverpool fans will believe is a huge attribute to their defensive stability is Joel Matip. Matip has flourished next to Virgil Van Dijk this season, the Cameroonian has been both comfortable on the ball and defensively sound. Matip is also the only centre back this season to win the Premier League Player of the Month award. He won the award for an excellent February, in which Liverpool played 4 league matches and kept 3 clean sheets. Matip also chipped in with a goal in that month against Leeds United.
Salah has been Liverpool’s most devastating player this season, scoring 28 goals and providing 10 assists in all competitions, the Egyptian appears to be cruising to his 3rd Golden Boot. He has found himself in a slightly sticky patch of form, however, and has not scored in any of Liverpool’s last 4 games. The Reds will be hoping that Salah’s form will return in Liverpool’s biggest game of the season so far, as he is a massive part of their attacking threat.
Like City, Liverpool have got an incredibly difficult run of fixtures to deal with. The Reds must play City this weekend in a title decider, Benfica in the week, followed by the FA Cup semi-final against City the following weekend at Wembley and then rivals Manchester United the following Tuesday evening in the league. Four massive fixtures in the space of nine days. As is the case for Guardiola’s men, losing is not an option this weekend for Liverpool.
City have played Liverpool over 200 times throughout history, a famous fixture that has brought some unforgettable moments. The first time these two sides met was in 1893 when City were known as Ardwick, the match ended 1-0 to the Reds. Both sides were playing in Division Two at that point.
In recent history, City have done reasonably well against such an impressive Liverpool side, only losing 1 of the last 8 meetings in all competitions. The last time that Manchester City lost a league match at home against Liverpool was in November 2015, a 4-1 defeat. The last time that these two sides met was a 2-2 draw at Anfield in October 2021, a match that is branded a classic. City came back from behind twice in that match, with goals from Foden and De Bruyne.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: Gary Beswick & Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood
Written by: @CharleyLongden
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