| Sunday, October 7th |
Premier League | Anfield
4:30PM GMT/11:30AM EST
Gird your loins, for Liverpool are playing their most important Premier League game of this nascent season tomorrow when Manchester City come calling. The Reds are in a bit of a down turn in form over the last two weeks or so. They haven’t won a game since September 22nd when they beat Southampton at home. It’s been a dreary start to October, but the Reds have home advantage and a win tomorrow would be just the right antidote to our collective ennui after a tough defeat against Napoli.
All eyes will be on Anfield on Sunday, because this is the most highly-anticipated game of the season. Whichever team wins will gain the upper hand on the title race early. With few points likely to be dropped between them, the two times the teams play each other could prove crucial.
Jürgen Klopp has a solid record against Pep Guardiola teams. Just last season, Liverpool beat the title-winners three out of the four times they met, and only lost the first match because Sadio Mané decided to try a little karate on the pitch.
Liverpool’s defense, for once, is the least concerning thing about the team going into this game. The back five have proved extremely capable since they’ve been playing together, and it will be helpful to have Alisson’s competent presence between the posts for this match.
The problems arise further forward, where Naby Keïta is a doubt after a back injury sent him off early against Napoli during midweek. The likely midfield trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Milner is not Klopp’s first choice at home, and may lack the creative spark that Keïta provides the team.
The attack, while still world class, has been struggling lately. They came up with a big goose egg against Napoli and required Daniel Sturridge’s last minute stunner to salvage a point against Chelsea. His other goal against Chelsea, in the League Cup game that preceded last week’s Premier League, action was also the only one scored by the Reds, but it wasn’t good enough to keep them in the competition. If ever there was a game when Liverpool needed all of Salah, Firmino, and Mané working at their best, this would be it.
Still, it’s hard to overstate just how good the Reds have looked at Anfield. Manchester City will come in worried, as they should be, about Liverpool getting an early jump on the game and taking control quickly.
This game will be a test to our fullbacks, who will have quite a challenge on their hands with Sterling and Sané running at them. Both have proven up to the task last season, so let’s hope it remains that way.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mané
The only real question is with the midfield. Klopp has played coy on Keïta’s fitness, so it’s unknown yet exactly what the midfield three will look like. Less likely, he may award Daniel Sturridge a start considering the fine form he’s been in compared to his peers. It’s almost certain, though, that Klopp sticks with his preferred front three.
For Manchester City, both Kevin de Bruyne and Benjamin Mendy could be fit to play tomorrow after injury lay-offs, which is not great news to hear. On the other hand, Ilkay Gundogan is doubtful after picking up a hamstring injury and Fabian Delph remains unavailable.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “I don’t think it makes sense at this moment to think about the title. There are a lot of games to play. But, it is a home game against Man City and that is a tough one. Last year they were really special and I expect them to be like this again. Teams that play like them can lose focus, but it never happened to City last year so they have all my respect. We have to be on our best to keep them away from our and create some chances in front of their goal.”
Pep Guardiola: “They are a top side in the way they play. Liverpool beat a lot of sides not just City [last season]. Liverpool is one of the two greatest teams in England. We try to be close to them. They are a top side and we try to be closer every time.”
Referee: Martin Atkinson Assistants: Stephen Child, Lee Betts Fourth official: Stuart Attwell
Kickoff is set for 4:30PM GMT/11:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.