13 January 2018

Liverpool v Manchester City 01.14.17

11am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
0-5 City (a) 09.09.17
1-1 (a) 03.19.17
1-0 Liverpool (h) 12.31.16
3-0 Liverpool (h) 03.02.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Everton (h); 2-1 Burnley (a); 2-1 Leicester (h)
City: 2-1 Bristol City (h); 4-1 Burnley (h); 3-1 Watford (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 17; Firmino 9; Coutinho 7; Mané 5; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge 2; Alexander-Arnold, Can, Henderson, Klavan, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
City: Sterling 14; Agüero 13; Jesus 8; de Bruyne, Sané 6; D Silva 5; Otamendi 4; Fernandinho 2; Danilo, Delph, Gundogan, B Silva 1

Referee: Andre Marriner (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Gomez Matip van Dijk Robertson
Alex O-C Can Wijnaldum
Salah Firmino Mané

It's Liverpool's first game since Philippe Coutinho's transfer to Barcelona. And it's against the runaway league-leaders, who've yet to lose a league match this season.

Good times.

For better or for worse, this marks a new beginning. The second phase of the season, clearly delineated by the rest the side's had after so many matches in so few days and the exit of Liverpool's ex-little magician. And this is as good a place to start as any other.


Maybe we'll see Lallana or Milner in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wijnaldum in midfield. Maybe Alexander-Arnold instead of Gomez. Maaaaaaaybe Karius remains in goal. Otherwise, we know what we're getting, at least personnel-wise.

Meanwhile, there's so much you can say about this City side. All those goals. All those games unbeaten. Absolutely running away with the league. Having demolished Liverpool the last time these sides met. Here are two things that sum up their season for me. Raheem Sterling's their top scorer in the league. Fabian Delph's become a competent left-back. Both of those statements still do not compute. This team is bananas.

They pass and pass and pass and press. They smother and stifle and squeeze the life out of you. They stab stab stab and score score score. If not at their best, they still somehow conspire to come up with late winners time and time again. Kevin de Bruyne is so on fire that he's odds-on for Premier League player of the season, and we know all too well what Mo Salah's done so far.

Guardiola obviously has options, but we're probably getting 4-3-3 tomorrow. Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; de Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling, Agüero, Sané. Mendy, Gabriel Jesus, and Kompany remain out injured.

Liverpool have had nine days since their last match. City played midweek in the League Cup. Sure, they were able to rest some players, but Sterling, Sané, de Bruyne, and Stones all played 90 minutes, with Agüero and Walker coming off the bench. You just have to look to Chelsea's 0-0 at home against Leicester earlier today, outplayed for long stretches until the visitors went down to 10 men, to see how fatigue can catch up with a side at this time of year.

So, yes, Manchester City have rolled almost everyone so far this season. Including Liverpool, a 0-5 rout that was one of Liverpool's biggest losses in a decade. They've drawn just four times, with two of those won on penalties in the League Cup. They've lost just once: a dead rubber, rest everyone Champions League match at Shakhtar. They've won 28. With 22 games played, they're leading the league by 15 points, with a goal difference of +51. Which is beyond mind-boggling.

But it's not as if Liverpool are without hope. Liverpool are unbeaten in 17 matches. Liverpool have conceded just four goals at Anfield in the league this season. Liverpool have scored the second-most goals in the league this season, behind only City. Liverpool still have Salah, Mané, and Firmino; Liverpool now have Virgil van Dijk.

Phase two starts now, with a chance to avenge September's embarrassment at the Etihad. With a chance to go level on points with Chelsea and United in second and third, at least before the latter plays on Monday. With more than a point to prove.

Go do it.

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