Liverpool vs Manchester City - an offensive affair
For a neutral, this fixture is an absolute treat. Since the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, incorporating a possession-based passing game to an already attack-minded side and Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, marrying his "heavy metal" football to the traditional Liverpool style, this is a game that is eagerly anticipated by football fans all over the world.
This season, however, one team has been consistently outstanding while the other team has only shown glimpses of the breathtaking football they can produce on a good day. yet, like any other fixture involving top quality sides, form goes out of the window for this one.
Manchester City is unbeaten in the Premier League having dropped just 4 points over the course of the season and are targeting what would be an incredible invincible season. Liverpool goes into the game in excellent form as well as they are unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions. When two attacking sides in brilliant form go head to head, it is only natural that we expect goals.
While the attacking intent of the teams involved gives fans reasons to be excited; tactically, this could well be the toughest game yet for both teams so far this season. Pep's Manchester City side is flying high and is enjoying their football, but a trip to Anfield where Liverpool are unbeaten this season and have displayed top-class attacking performances could be their most daunting task yet.
City's record away at Liverpool doesn't give them any more confidence. The last time the Citizens won at Anfield in the Premier League was back in 2003. Anfield has also been a fortress for the home side as they have conceded only 4 goals in their last 13 games on home turf.
Adding to the spice of the build-up between these two elite clubs is the rivalry between the two charismatic managers. No manager has beaten Pep Guardiola more than Jurgen Klopp (4). While there is a great amount of respect between the both of them, Pep Guardiola would definitely want to make sure that this record does not extend.
The Reds will be the fresher of the two teams going into this game as City were involved in yet another thrilling game on Tuesday as they overcame Bristol City in the first leg of the Carabao Cup, maintaining their unbeaten run in domestic competitions.
Klopp's men have had a full week's rest after their triumph in the FA Cup last week against Everton. Importantly for them, top scorer Mohammed Salah has recovered from his groin injury and will be fit to play on Sunday. This is a huge boost to a side that lost one of their key players in Philipe Coutinho to Barcelona last week. For Manchester City, the only notable absentee is striker Gabriel Jesus who will be out for another two weeks at least.
These two teams are the league's top pressers, retrieving the ball more times in the attacking third than any other team (Opta). This could be the most vital feature of this game.
Manchester City prefers to play out from the back even when put under pressure. This is one of the reasons they have been successful. Pep is rather open about his core ideology in football that having more possession does stop the opposition from scoring as well as create several chances for themselves.
Liverpool, though, is known for their incredible energy going forward and winning the ball in dangerous areas. It is unlikely that City will drop their ideology for a particular game and in that case, they could potentially be playing with fire with Liverpool attackers guaranteed to pressurize the defenders on the ball at every opportunity.
Players to keep an eye on -
Sergio Aguero: The Argentine striker has a superb record against Liverpool despite having never scored at Anfield. He has proven to be a menace for Liverpool in the past and it wouldn't be a surprise if he does score for the first time at Anfield. With Gabriel Jesus out injured, he is guaranteed to start up top for Man City.
Raheem Sterling: This is the third season at Manchester City for the former Liverpool man, he has looked a different player since Pep arrived. Sterling is City's top scorer in the league this season with 14 goals; impressive returns for a winger, who has often been criticized for his finishing in the past.
Traveling to Anfield hasn't been easy for the 23-year old with the home fans restlessly booing him. It will be interesting to see how an improved, in-form Sterling reacts in the occasion.
Mohammed Salah: The African Player of the Year returns is set to make a comeback to the starting eleven after being sidelined due to a groin injury for two weeks. He has been prolific this season for Liverpool and has scored 17 league goals.
He rarely had the opportunity to shine the last time these sides met and will be looking to inflict some damage to the City defence that has been solid so far.
Virgil Van Dijk: The pressure of being the most expensive defender in history did not affect the Dutch centre-back at all as he stepped up to score the winner against Everton in his debut in the FA Cup. However, Manchester City is a formidable attacking threat and there is no bigger stage for Van Dijk to justify his humongous price tag than this important encounter against the table toppers.
This is a fixture that rarely disappoints. It is the kind of mouth-watering fixture a fan craves for. We can only hope that there will be goals and several of them!