Manchester City’s hope of winning last season Premier League without blemish was first thwarted by Liverpool as the Citizens fell 3-4 at Anfield and the Reds further dashed Pep Guardiola’s ambition of becoming the first City Manager to deliver the UEFA Champions League to the Etihad as the Spaniard and his men were beaten home and away by the Kops. This is why City must be at their best if they hope to come out of Anfield unruffled on Sunday
Premier League champions Manchester City return to the scene of their worst defeats of last season when they take on title rivals Liverpool in a highly-anticipated clash at Anfield on Sunday.
City were beaten twice by Juergen Klopp’s team at Anfield- a 4-3 defeat in the league and a 3-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal.
The matches were superb entertainment for the neutral fan and another high-octane affair is expected on Sunday.
Both teams have made unbeaten starts to the domestic season with six victories from seven games and 19 points each but Pep Guardiola’s side are top of the table thanks to a better goal difference.
The manner of Liverpool’s victories, ripping apart City’s defence with their high pressing and high-speed forward line, left the impression that the Reds may have City’s number.
“These are the games you want to win. They are a team in form and at Anfield, we know this will be a difficult game for us, but I think this City side has shown in the past that we are always up for these games” City captain Vincent Kompany said.
In January, Liverpool led 4-1 before a late City attempted comeback yielded two goals in the last 10 minutes, with all three of Klopp’s forwards – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on target.
That front-line hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season yet with Salah in particular lacking sharpness, but in Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge, whose spectacular late goal earned a point at Chelsea last week, Klopp has options from the bench.
Liverpool also look stronger at the back than last season and have more options in midfield with the addition of Naby Keita and Fabinho.
Both teams will feature Brazilian goalkeepers who are adept at passing with Alisson Becker at Liverpool bringing some of the qualities City have benefited from with their number one Ederson.
However, Liverpool’s perfect run of seven straight wins to begin the campaign in all competitions has come unstuck in the past week.
Defeat by Chelsea with a much-changed side in the League Cup was followed by a well-earned point against the same opponents at Stamford Bridge thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s brilliant late equaliser.
Yet, more worrying for Jurgen Klopp was an uncharacteristically lacklustre display in losing 1-0 to Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday.
“This was a reality check on how things must not go,” warned midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
Liverpool were outplayed for large spells in Italy and looked to be feeling the physical toll of a brutal run of fixtures that also included a trip to Tottenham and a thrilling 3-2 Champions League win over French champions Paris Saint-Germain in a four-week spell.
“You have seen it has been absolutely intense since the last international break with the games we’ve had – Chelsea twice, coming to Napoli, playing PSG and now we have the game on Sunday against Man City. We cannot change that, so we have to make sure we are ready,” said Klopp.
City’s visit, therefore, doesn’t come at the best time as Liverpool seek to show they are capable of knocking Guardiola’s record breakers off their perch.
Liverpool had the edge on City when they went head-to-head last season, winning three of their four meetings.
City’s hopes of an unbeaten season went up in smoke in a 10-minute period at Anfield in January as Liverpool struck three times en route to winning 4-3.
And they also prolonged Guardiola’s quest to land City’s first-ever Champions League title with a 5-1 aggregate thrashing in the quarterfinals.
However, the task for Klopp is to marry that ability to rise to the big occasion with City’s consistency that racked up 100 Premier League points last season.
Liverpool certainly now have the squad for the long haul. So often outgunned by Abu-Dhabi backed City in the transfer market in recent years, it was the Reds who were the biggest spenders this summer.
Of the new recruits, though, only goalkeeper Becker has made a big impact as Klopp has preferred to stand by those who got Liverpool to the Champions League final last season.
That run owed much to the firepower of Mohamed Salah’s 44 goals. However, the Egyptian has so far struggled to match those heights in his second season at Anfield.
Salah was subbed off on his return to Stamford Bridge last weekend and largely anonymous in Naples as Liverpool failed to muster a single shot on target.
“I don’t remember when that happened last,” admitted Klopp, who remains convinced Salah’s slump will be temporary.
“It’s like riding a bike. It’s not like you wake up in the morning and you cannot finish anymore.”
Liverpool need Salah back in the saddle come Sunday if they are to stop City puncturing their super start by striking first blood in the title race.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho can ill-afford another poor result for his struggling Manchester United side when they face Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle at Old Trafford today.
Amidst reports of divisions in the camp, United have not won in their last four outings in all competitions and are 10th in the Premier League, nine points adrift of the top two.
Third-placed Chelsea, who are also unbeaten, are away to Southampton on Sunday while Arsenal face promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage.
After losing to Barcelona on Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur, depleted by injuries, host second-bottom Cardiff City.