BY Demola Ojo
Today represents the most important day of this Premier League season so far as the competition’s best teams renew a rivalry that defined last season’s title race and may do so again providing Pep Guardiola’s injury-hit Manchester City keep up with Liverpool.
Another win for Jürgen Klopp, who has beaten a team led by Pep Guardiola more times than any other manager (eight wins out of 17 meetings), would represent a monumental step for Liverpool, although City ended their unbeaten start to last season.
Liverpool, who have dropped just two points all season, host Manchester City, the side whom they are six points clear of. A win would give Liverpool a mammoth nine-point lead over their rivals and would see them be at least eight points clear of both Leicester City and Chelsea.
The Reds made a huge statement last time out with their dramatic late win against Aston Villa. Despite being subpar for most of the game, Sadio Mane’s 95th-minute winner gave Klopp and his side a vital victory.
If City win, then the title race is well and truly on. Their comeback win over Southampton was somewhat less impressive than Liverpool’s but the fact that they are showing similar levels of resolve will encourage Pep Guardiola.
Mane will be pivotal for Liverpool. The Senegalese international has found a new level to his game. His dramatic late winner at Villa Park summed up what has been an excellent season thus far, with six goals and four assists barely scratching the surface. It won’t be a surprise if he’s a central figure at Anfield today as his goals have won Liverpool eight points already this season. He has scored 17 goals in his last 17 league appearances at Anfield.
Meanwhile Man City faced another injury blow midweek when goalkeeper Ederson left the Champions League game against Atalanta midway with an injury.
Claudio Bravo replaced him and was sent off with less than a half under his belt. The thought of the Chilean being in goal may excite Liverpool fans. However, the Reds should remember that it was Bravo’s man of the match display which won City the Community Shield in August.
His distribution and eagerness to play out from the back suits Guardiola perfectly. This is undoubtedly the biggest game of his City career thus far. Bravo will be making his first Premier League appearance in 18 months.
Liverpool have gone 16 top-flight games unbeaten against City at Anfield, with their solitary home defeat in the past 28 meetings coming in May 2003.
City’s 16-match winless streak away to Liverpool is their longest in the Premier League against any opponent (D5, L11). However, City have only lost one of the last five Premier League meetings (W2, D2).
A Liverpool win would ensure they equal the English top-flight record of 11 wins and a draw after 12 matches of a season. Five sides have achieved the feat, including Liverpool in 1990 and Manchester City twice.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in 28 Premier League matches, winning 19 of the past 20. Their only defeat in 50 league fixtures came against Manchester City in January.
The Reds have gone 45 home matches without defeat, the second longest unbeaten run in Premier League history.
Liverpool have recovered an unrivalled 10 points from losing positions this season.
Manchester City have won 11 of their past 12 Premier League away games, scoring 30 goals during that period. They are the division’s top scorers this season with 34 goals, and have only failed to score in one of their past 33 league fixtures.
City have lost two of their opening 11 league fixtures – no team managed by Pep Guardiola has suffered three top-flight defeats before the 15th match of a season.
Sergio Aguero has made seven Premier League appearances at Anfield without scoring, his longest wait for a goal at any stadium. He has only had two attempts on target in those seven games.
However, he has nine goals from 10 shots on target in the Premier League this season.