There is a massive game at the Etihad tonight, as Manchester City host Liverpool. The game will kick off at 8pm. Man City must win the game, or it’ll be very difficult for them to retain the Premier League title. A draw would be a great result for Liverpool, as they would then be seven points clear of both Man City and Tottenham.
Man City must win the game tonight to close the gap on Liverpool and begin putting some pressure on them. They’re currently seven points behind the Reds, which is a comfortable lead for Jurgen Klopp’s team. But if City were to win tonight, that gap would be reduced to four points. The pressure would then be well and truly on Liverpool, and City could be confident of catching them in the race for the title.
But, as much as it’s a must-win game for City, it’s even more of a must-not-lose. If Liverpool win tonight, the gap between them and City would be 10 points. Even with Liverpool having previous when it comes to slipping up in a title race, it would be very difficult for them to mess that up. If City lose tonight, it really could be over for them. All their eggs may then go into the Champions League basket, but it’s still too early to speculate on something like that.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Pep Guardiola sets his team up for tonight’s game. As ever, he’ll have an attack-minded team out, but he won’t be sending them out there to go all-out-attack. After Liverpool hammered them 5-1 over two legs in last season’s Champions League quarter-final, Guardiola will know he has to be cautious. But, of course, he’ll believe his team has enough about them to win this game.
The players he has at his disposal are phenomenal, and are capable of beating any team in the world. They may have had a bad December – with losses against Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester – but this team is good enough to turn that around and go on a winning run. Man City can’t be ruled out of this title race: especially if they win tonight.
Liverpool are in such a strong position right now. They’re six points ahead of Tottenham – who won’t realistically challenge them – and seven ahead of Man City. Winning tonight and opening up a 10 point gap would be absolutely huge. But a draw tonight and maintaining that seven point lead over City would also be huge. Picking up a point at the Etihad would be seen as an achievement for any team, and Liverpool have to see it that way, too.
But, the question is: will Jurgen Klopp send his team out looking for a draw? It’s highly doubtful. He isn’t negative often, and always wants his team to take the game to the opposition. But it wouldn’t be surprising if they toned down their attack even a little bit tonight. Sitting back, even just a little bit more than usual, and hitting on the break could be the way for them to approach this game. When Man City do commit forward, Liverpool could really hurt them. When City’s full-backs bomb on, they leave a lot of space in behind, which Mo Salah and Sadio Mane can exploit.
Liverpool’s back four and front three pick themselves. The questions lie in midfield. Expect Klopp to bring in Jordan Henderson or the returning James Milner to partner Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho in midfield as he tries to bring some solidity in the middle of the park. We could see something like: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson, Fabinho, Salah, Firmino, Mane. He may go for Naby Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri, but the more solid Milner or Henderson are more likely to play.
Liverpool’s brilliant defence – they’ve conceded just eight goals from their 20 games this season – will almost definitely be tested tonight. City have some tremendous attacking players, and will definitely back themselves to score. It’s going to be a very intriguing battle, but with van Dijk brilliantly leading Liverpool’s back-line, they’ll be confident of keeping Sergio Aguero and friends quiet.
Kevin De Bruyne will have a fitness test ahead of the game. He returned to action last month, but missed City’s last game against Southampton because of a muscle problem. Benjamin Mendy is a long-term absentee. After missing a couple of games, Fernandinho played in the win against Southampton and is fit for tonight. Fabian Delph is suspended. Ilkay Gundogan should be fit.
James Milner returned to Liverpool training on Tuesday and is in contention to play against his former club. However, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain out.
This really could be a fantastic game. When they last met at Anfield, the game didn’t live up to expectation as both teams were cautious. But they can’t afford to play like that again, and we really could be in for a treat tonight. It’s a game that could go either way, and there’s no point in throwing predictions around as there’s just no way of knowing.
I’ll be watching the game, and you can follow it with me on Twitter. Enjoy it if you’re going or watching!