Huge Etihad clash as City host Liverpool

All eyes will be on Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on Thursday when Premier League leaders Liverpool visit in a huge showdown at the top of the table.

The Reds are 3.70 to win and have enjoyed a stunning Christmas period and sit seven points clear of the champions after taking advantage of Pep Guardiola’s side’s unexpected recent slip-ups against Crystal Palace and Leicester.

In-form Reds ticking all the boxes

Liverpool’s impressive 5-1 win over Arsenal on Saturday extended their unbeaten run to the first 20 games of the season and they will be aiming to start 2019 in the way they ended 2018 as they look to finally end their 29-year wait to be crowned English champions once again in the spring.

Jurgen Klopp’s side still have plenty of hurdles to overcome but if they can emerge with a draw or better on Thursday, it will begin to look like the title is theirs to throw away.

Liverpool have gone from strength to strength this season and, after grinding out important wins earlier in the campaign when clearly not firing on all cylinders, they are now routinely swatting teams aside – evidenced by big wins over Bournemouth (4-0), Manchester United (3-1), Newcastle (4-0) and the Gunners (5-1) in the past month.

Not only are the fearsome front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane firing at one end of the pitch but at the back a defence, superbly marshalled by Virgil van Dijk, looks watertight in front of the excellent goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Liverpool have only conceded eight goals in the league all season and what was once their biggest weakness is arguably now their greatest strength.

Squad depth could point to title charge

Klopp has assembled a squad that has real depth with fringe players like Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne all seemingly happy to play bit-part roles but still weighing in with big performances – and goals – when required.

There is no doubt the Merseysiders will approach Thursday’s game with plenty of confidence then and they will also hold last season’s 2-1 Champions League quarter-final win at the Etihad fresh in the memory. However, they’ll know City will be desperate to prove they are still the best side in the country and very much alive in the title race.

Those shock defeats against Palace and Leicester will have stung Guardiola and his side were fired up to prove a point on Sunday when they dispatched Southampton 3-1. Despite the recent negativity, a win on Thursday would leave them just four points behind while inflicting a potentially vital psychological blow on the Reds in the process.

Everyone knows on their day that City (2.00 to win) can beat anyone and they blew Liverpool away in the corresponding league fixture early last season (5-0) before Klopp’s men got their revenge at Anfield and in the Champions League.

October’s meeting between the two ended 0-0 as Guardiola seemed to alter his tactics to try and nullify Liverpool’s attacking threat but he knows he simply has to win this game to get back into the title race so expect the home side to go for it.

Aguero and Sterling the City dangermen

Raheem Sterling is having a fine season but rarely seems to shine against his former club – something he will hope to put right on Thursday.

Team-mate Sergio Aguero claimed a Premier League record with his goal in last season’s win at the Etihad taking the number of games he’s scored in in home league meetings with the Merseysiders to six.

Aguero is short at 1.83 to score anytime but backing over 3.5 goals in total at 2.60 might be worthwhile.

In conclusion, it’s expected to be tight again as there seems to be very little between the two teams when they’re on top form and backing a draw, on offer at 3.85, could
pay off.

That result would suit Liverpool fine but leave City scrambling to successfully defend their Premier League crown.