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There’s no doubt about the game of the week in the Premier League, is there? We’ve become used to watching big clashes between Manchester City and Liverpool, and we’ve got another potential classic to look forward to at the Etihad on Saturday.
I think if you’d have said at the start of the season that, 12 games in, these sides would be separated only by a point, Liverpool would have snapped your hand off. But their progress has been encouraging and City are not yet the force we saw last season.
With that in mind, I believe Liverpool will go into the weekend with belief, although if you offered Jurgen Klopp a draw now I think he’d take it. Away wins in these fixtures have been rare in recent years, even though the sides have often been very closely matched in terms of points and league position.
From a Liverpool perspective, the big decisions surround the defence and the attack. For starters, Klopp has a choice to make at left-back, where Kostas Tsimikas is the incumbent but where Joe Gomez may offer a more stable, defensively-adept option against the roving Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker.
As for the forward line, the question is which two Klopp chooses to start alongside Mo Salah. Both Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez will have had minimal training time due to their international commitments in South America, but those are the more explosive options when compared to Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota. Will Klopp start his European duo and keep Diaz and Nunez in reserve, or will he ask them to get at City from the word go. I’d guess at the latter, personally.
I’d expect Alexis Mac Allister to return in midfield, alongside Dominik Szoboszlai and either Ryan Gravenberch or Curtis Jones, both of whom should be fit. That’s a different kind of Liverpool midfield to the one which has competed with City down the years – more craft than graft, you’d say – and that could be the key to the game. City have shown that they are defensively vulnerable, letting in four at Chelsea last time out, but can Liverpool get enough of the ball to exploit the gaps?
It promises to be intriguing. I’ll be at the Etihad and I can’t wait. I’d be surprised, but not amazed, if Liverpool won, but a score draw certainty wouldn’t shock me, and I reckon the Reds would be delighted if they came away with exactly that.
Liverpool will be up against perhaps the most exciting player in the Premier League this weekend. Jeremy Doku has been sensational since joining Manchester City, and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Co. will have their work cut out trying to stop the Belgian star.
Doku was linked quite regularly to Liverpool during his time at both Anderlecht and Rennes, and I understand he was close to moving to Anfield as a 15-year-old. He has revealed himself that he was shown around the training ground (then Melwood) and that he had conversations with Jurgen Klopp and some senior Reds players, but chose to stay at Anderlecht.
The Reds have consistently targeted attacking players of a similar profile – versatile, aged between 22 and 25, with 150+ senior games under their belt and with a proven output in terms of goals and assists. That’s what they were prepared to pay big money for with the likes of Nunez, Diaz, Gakpo and Jota, and before that Salah and Sadio Mane, and it has brought them plenty of success. They certainly haven’t struggled for talented left-sided forwards in recent years.
A club like City is much more likely to take a big-money punt on someone like Doku. The good news for Pep Guardiola is it looks like the punt is going to pay off, big time. Liverpool won’t regret missing out on him last summer, but they may regret their failure to turn his head back in 2017…