It’s the first round of games of 2019, and we already have a potential title decider on the cards. Man City host Liverpool in easily the most anticipated game of the 2018-19 Premier League so far.
The hosts will be hoping to close down the seven-point gap between them and current leaders, Liverpool. Seven points does not seem like a lot at first glance, but looking at how Liverpool are playing, the deficit seems gigantic if you’re a Cityzen.
A contrasting Christmas for Man City and Liverpool
The seven-point gap and consequently, the magnitude of this fixture, is due to Man City’s fortunes during Christmas.
The Cityzens were clearly not feeling the Christmas spirit as they lost two consecutive games on 22nd December and 26th December. Crystal Palace defeated them 3-2 first and Leicester City got the better of them on Boxing Day.
Liverpool, meanwhile, made it three wins out of three in the last week of December. They hunted Wolves down, 2-0, on 22nd December. Klopp’s men followed it up with a 4-0 thumping of Newcastle on Boxing Day and a sensational 5-1 demolition of Arsenal on 29th December.
Liverpool are yet to lose a game in the Premier League so far. Tonight’s game, however, is the biggest threat to that undefeated streak. Especially considering that the game is at the Etihad Stadium.
Man City’s run of losses coincided with injuries to multiple players like Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. Thankfully for Guardiola, Silva and Fernandinho have fully recovered from their ailments and will most likely start tonight. De Bruyne’s status, however, still remains doubtful. If the Belgian is to play any part, it will most probably be from the bench. Another midfielder whose availability is not confirmed is Ilkay Gundogan.
The Etihad Stadium outfit will be fielding a makeshift back four today. Benjamin Mendy’s layoff and Fabian Delph’s suspension means that Aymeric Laporte will be slotting in at left-back.
Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, has little to worry about when injuries are concerned. Apart from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s lengthy layoff, Joe Gomez is the only starter who’s sidelined.
The past few games
When Guardiola’s cohorts traveled to Anfield in October 2018, both sides shared the spoils with a 0-0 draw. Liverpool, however, do have a few things to worry about when they play at the Etihad.
The Reds have won only once in their last nine Premier League games at the stadium. In the 2017-18 season, Man City pummeled Liverpool, 5-0, at home in the league. Klopp did get one over in the Champions League, however, with Liverpool winning 2-1 in the second leg of the semi-finals.
Klopp’s only Premier League win at the Etihad came in 2015, when Liverpool won 4-1. That match was Klopp’s first taste of City as Liverpool’s manager.