06 October 2018

Liverpool v Manchester City 10.07.18

11:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a; CL) 04.10.18
3-0 Liverpool (h; CL) 04.04.18
4-3 Liverpool (h) 01.14.18
0-5 City (a) 09.27.17

Last matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Napoli (a); 1-1 Chelsea (a); 1-2 Chelsea (h)
City: 2-1 Hoffenheim (a); 2-0 Brighton (h); 3-0 Oxford (a)

Goal scorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 4; Salah 3; Firmino, Sturridge 2; Matip, Milner, Wijnaldum 1
City: Agüero 5; Sterling 4; Mahrez, B Silva, D Silva 2; Gundogan, Jesus, Laporte, Sane, Walker 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Firmino Mané


The narrative surrounding any Liverpool match often feels overwhelming and overwrought, but this’ll be even more so.

The champions against the contenders. The rebels against the evil empire. Is Liverpool ready to actually make a run at the title? This match will, of course, definitively tell us either way. Here, this is the season, right here. In the first week of October. Hold onto your butts.

So the last three games haven’t been great.

Loss, draw, loss. None impressive, and two of those with a full-strength side. The defense has been mostly impressively good, but the midfield’s unperformed – at least in regards to creativity – and the attack’s misfired. Does that mean changes tomorrow? Sturridge or Shaqiri or Fabinho starting? Maybe a 4-2-3-1, as against Southampton, even though Southampton and City are two very different opponents, a formation likely better able to create for the front three if the front three can’t create for themselves? Maybe 4-4-2, with both Firmino and Sturridge – or Firmino and Salah – up top?

Probably not. We know Liverpool’s preferred shape, we know Liverpool’s preferred players, even also knowing Liverpool’s increased strength in depth. That depth has manifested far more as options off the bench rather than rotation in starting XIs. At least guessing the midfield is a bit easier than usual. Keïta is supposedly available, but given how weird and frightening backs can be, I’d be surprised. More likely is Fabinho finally getting a run in the league.

Meanwhile, you may have heard that Manchester City are good. Draw with Wolves and Champions League loss to Lyon aside, they’ve been as brutal as ever. Most goals per game, shots per game, possession per game, and the highest pass accuracy in the league. Fewest shots allowed, lowest xG per shot, and joint-fewest goals conceded – along with Liverpool. Level on points with Liverpool, although ahead on goal difference having waxed both Huddersfield and Cardiff by five goals already this season.

Let’s go with Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Laporte; D Silva, Fernandinho, Gündogan; Sterling, Agüero, Sané. That seems the most familiar. But guessing City’s XI is never easy; it’s not as if City don’t have other options, whether in personnel or formation. There are Mahrez or Jesus in attack. Bernardo Silva in either midfield or attack. Both Mendy and de Bruyne could return from injury, almost certainly hosed down with horse placenta by some shady "doctor" during the week. 3-5-2 is possible if Mendy’s fit; 4-4-2 is possible with both Agüero and Jesus up front.

Last season’s matches with Manchester City were wild, exactly what blitzkrieg heavy metal football should be. Three of the four were wild in a good way, a 4-3 league win that was literally the perfect encapsulation of last season’s Liverpool and those two dramatic Champions League victories. The other match, as I suspect you remember, was wild in a very bad way. Manchester City, so dominant in the league, were beaten three out of four times by this Liverpool side.

It will be hard for Liverpool to replicate that. It is up to Liverpool to replicate that.

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