Liverpool face Manchester City at the Etihad stadium on Saturday after their return from international break and the result could have serious ramifications on the race for league glory.
After what has been a long few months since the transfer window opened and speculation about various transfers began, the window is finally closed and it’s back to business on the pitch for Liverpool as they face Manchester City on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool players on international duty have had a successful international break, with Welsh academy star Ben Woodburn stealing headlines at the World Cup Qualifiers, while Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominic Solanke had memorable breaks with England.
Both sides sit in the top four after picking up seven points from their three opening games, although City are yet to win at home after being held to a 1-1 draw by Everton. Conversely, Liverpool have won both of their home games – including a 4-0 demolition of Arsenal – but drew their only away game in a chaotic 3-3 clash at Vicarage Road on the opening day of the campaign.
Pep Guardiola will hope that his players return from international duty rejuvenated as City attempt to kick their season up a gear. While they are unbeaten in their opening three Premier League games, Guardiola’s side were lucky to avoid defeat against Everton and they have laboured to wins against Brighton and Bournemouth.
Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus have got themselves off the mark already, but they will hope to rack up more goals in the coming weeks as City look to become much more convincing title challengers. Liverpool have had no such trouble in front of goal and will take plenty of confidence from their thrashing of Arsenal into the game.
The likes of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have been devastating in front of goal, as has new signing Mohamed Salah, who has hit the ground running at Anfield.
The Reds have scored 14 goals in their last five games in all competitions, eight of which came in their last two matches, and they look to be finding their groove. However, they have also conceded six times in those five games and defence remains a major source of concern.
The sheer wealth of attacking riches on show at the Etihad suggests that the game will be full of goals, but with so much potentially riding on the outcome, it would be no surprise to see both teams adopt a more cautious approach than usual. A win for either side would send the victors top in Saturday’s early kick-off and neither manager will want to lose further ground on Jose Mourinho’s side.
Jürgen Klopp confirmed that there were no injury complaints as he prepares his charges for the resumption of Premier League action on Saturday.
Philippe Coutinho – yet to play for Klopp following his transfer request amid Barcelona’s unsuccessful interest – turned out for Brazil on international duty but is not likely that he will be selected this weekend as Klopp says “it doesn’t make sense”.
Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana remain sidelined with long-term injuries, meanwhile Oxlade-Chamberlain could make his debut for Liverpool after his transfer from Arsenal.
Raheem Sterling will sit out the game against his former club due to suspension, but Kyle Walker returns having served a ban. Ilkay Gundogan is nearing a return to full fitness and could come into contention.
Vincent Kompany picked up a knock while with Belgium, meaning he will be assessed in the build-up to the match. Should the Belgian miss out, Guardiola would most likely have to pair up John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi in a four-man defence, something which has not always worked out well. Two players who also won’t be involved are Wilfried Bony and Samir Nasri, who left for Swansea and Antalyaspor respectively during the summer transfer window.
The last time the two sides met was at the Etihad Stadium and the points were shared as an Agüero goal cancelled out a penalty from James Milner. Liverpool have not lost at the Etihad since August 2015 and will hope to extend that record this season.
The Reds are in fine form lately with four consecutive wins in all competitions, and ahead of their Champions League group stage game against Sevilla on Wednesday a win is needed to keep morale high.
I’m going for a 1-2 win for Liverpool. Let me know your predictions below, or tweet me!