The festive period is notorious for delivering shock results and surprises, and when Stoke took the lead against Liverpool on Tuesday night even the most optimistic Reds supporter could have been forgiven for thinking ‘oh no, it’s our turn’.
But an Adam Lallana equaliser helped to settle the nerves, and a Robert Firmino strike on the brink of half time pretty much settled the tie. A Gianni Imbula own goal and a Daniel Sturridge effort secured the 4-1 triumph in the second period.
So ‘job done’ is perhaps the best assessment of the match. The Reds weren’t at the races in the opening half-hour, and they can’t expect a Manchester City side to let them off so lightly in this New Year’s Eve clash.
The continued problems in goal are a worry, too. Simon Mignolet really should have kept out Jonathan Walters’ header, and in matches against sides like Stoke – no disrespect – we can afford lapses of concentration. In games against Manchester City, which can be won by a moment of magic or madness, we need the Belgian to be on top form.
The Reds remain a solitary point ahead of City in the Premier League table, and so avoiding defeat here – as a bare minimum – is essential. With our obvious gifts being our attacking play, rather than defensive work – a characteristic shared by Pep Guardiola’s side – we can expect nothing but a humdinger to see in the new year at Anfield on Saturday.
Liverpool Team News
There are mysteries surrounding team selection for Saturday’s match, and we can’t blame Jurgen Klopp for keeping his cards close to his chest. Any advantage he can gain over his old adversary, Pep Guardiola, must be taken.
The suspense surrounds two key players: Joel Matip and Philipp Coutinho. The former has now missed three games with an ankle injury, and while Ragnar Klavan has proven to be an able deputy it would be a huge fillip to have Matip back to help handle Sergio Aguero and co. At the moment, the Cameroon ace is rated as ‘50/50’, but Klopp will surely play him if convinced of his fitness.
As for Coutinho, we know he is back in full training, but as to his match sharpness clearly the little Brazilian is some way off in his rehabilitation. Having him on the bench will be a huge bonus though, so let’s hope he is fit enough to strike fear into the Man City backline even if it is a brief cameo appearance.
There must be a temptation to blood Daniel Sturridge against his former club too. He continues to show up well in his substitute appearances, and while Divock Origi has been in decent form in front of goal the lanky Belgian’s build-up play occasionally leaves a little to be desired. With City’s weakness being of a defensive variety, the extra pressure put on them by Sturridge would be very interesting indeed.
However, Klopp is known to be a huge fan of Origi, and so we would expect him to get the nod here.
Manchester City Form
Manchester City’s form has held up well since the suspension of Sergio Aguero, disproving the myth that the Citizens are a mere one-man team.
Following a 2-4 defeat at Leicester, a trio of victories against Watford, Arsenal and Hull have steadied the ship and kept Guardiola’s side in touch with the Premier League leaders. A double boost has come in the form of a return to form for Yaya Toure and the injury suffered by John Stones – City have conceded a solitary goal in the three matches he has missed.
Aguero is back too after his four-game ban and will surely waltz straight back into this Coty side, who haven’t looked all that convincing in victory over Watford and Hull, and who have Arsene Wenger to thank for striking the fear of God into his team at half time in their clash which enabled City to turn around a 0-1 deficit at the break into a 2-1 victory courtesy of a Gunners side fearful of leaving their own half of the pitch.
How will City cope with a Liverpool side who attacks them with vigour? They couldn’t cope in the first half against Arsenal, they couldn’t handle Chelsea’s counter forays and they were undone by Tottenham’s quick interchanges. The signs are good for the Reds.
Liverpool vs Manchester City Betting Tips
With all of the above being said, this is perhaps the toughest match of the season to call so far, and those looking for an outright punt may be advised to look elsewhere. Picking a winner between these two fine sides is ripe for disappointment.
Instead, the goals markets look the most favourable. Neither of these sides defends with any real authority; in 36 combined starts, they have kept just nine clean sheets – not a ringing endorsement for teams placed second and third in the league table. So, backing Over 2.5 Goals & Both Teams to Score at 10/11 looks an excellent investment.
The Reds have netted 25 goals in their eight outings at Anfield thus far this season, with City conceding four against Leicester, three against Chelsea and two against Tottenham. So, backing Liverpool in the Over 1.5 Team Goals market at 10/11 looks smart too.