Manchester City v Liverpool | Match Preview | Premier League
Sunday, November 8th, 2020
11:30 ET Canada-USA | 18:30 Cairo Local Time
Venue: Etihad Stadium
The first clash of 2020/21 between the two teams which finished in top two positions in the last two seasons in the Premier League will take place at the Etihad on Sunday, when Manchester City play host to Liverpool in the eighth round of the campaign. Both have suffered some strong disappointment early, through unexpected defeats and potentially crippling injuries, but both seem to have shaken it off and are currently on a fine run.
Having won the Carabao Cup last term, Pep Guardiola’s team ended 2019/20 in a largely underwhelming fashion. They lost the Premier League title to Liverpool by 18 points, they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the semifinal at the hands of Arsenal under the command of Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta, and finally, having gone past Real Madrid in the round of 16 of the Champions League, they were bested by Olympique Lyon in the quarterfinals of UEFA’s elite competition.
This time around, they didn’t get off to a great start in the league either. They’ve so far managed to win three games from six played, drawing twice and losing once. They are currently in 10th place with 11 points, but having a game in hand on most of the pack, they are only three points behind Tottenham Hotspur in third. A win on Sunday would go a long way indeed in helping them re-stake a claim in the title race.
As for the Champions League, City are doing well. They sit top of Group C after beating all three opponents – Porto, Olympique Marseille and Olympiacos.
Last season, City’s efforts were severely hampered by the long absence of defender Aymeric Laporte, and while the Frenchman is now fit, Sergio Aguero is the one struggling. The brilliant forward has been ruled out with a hamstring problem. Midfielder-turned-defender Fernandinho and left-back Benjamin Mendy are both out as well.
The good news for Guardiola is that Gabriel Jesus is back from an injury of his own, and having come on from the bench to score in City’s midweek win against Olympiacos, the Brazilian is likely to start against Liverpool. Defenders Laporte and Ruben Dias seem certain to start, having been rested against Olympiacos. The same goes for fullback Joao Cancelo and midfielder Rodri, who also came on off the bench.
Jurgen Klopp’s team have set out to prove that their first Premier League title in 30 years last season wasn’t a lucky fluke, but they’ve been hit hard with injuries, particularly in the defensive department.
Nonetheless, refusing to let those misfortunes affect their campaign too much, Liverpool have returned to the top of the table with 16 points after seven rounds. Apart from injuries, they were brought down to earth severely by Aston Villa of all teams; the 7-2 defeat at Villa Park on October 4th was a shock indeed. But they shook it off, winning all but one of the six games they’ve played in all competitions since.
Like City, Liverpool sit top of their Champions League group (D), where they triumphed over Ajax, Midtjylland and Atalanta in the first half of the stage. The 0-5 win over Atalanta in Bergamo this week was particularly impressive.
As for the defensive injuries mentioned above, Virgil van Dijk is out for the season with an ACL tear. Midfielder-turned-defender Fabinho picked up a hamstring problem against Midtjylland and it out for the time being as well. Klopp will, however, be happy that Joel Matip is back in full training after a niggling muscle issue of his own, and the Cameroonian is likely to start alongside Joe Gomez.
Midfielder Thiago Alcantara who, like Van Dijk, picked up an injury in the Merseyside Derby on October 17th, is still being assessed on a daily basis ahead of full-training return, Klopp has confirmed, which means he won’t be ready to play at the Etihad. It could be a chance for Naby Keita to start – the Guniean is another one back from injury – or maybe Xherdan Shaqiri, with Curtis Jones perhaps still too young for this huge clash. Former City man James Milner is another option, while Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson seem nailed-on to take part from the first whistle.
Klopp has a tough choice to make when it comes to the forward line. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are a given, but the German has to decide between Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota. Firmino has been a vital part of his team for years, but Jota is currently on great form, having scored a hat-trick in Bergamo.