Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Match Preview
The Premier League is back (thank goodness) this weekend when City welcome Jurgen Klopp`s free-scoring Liverpool to the Etihad for the early kick off.
After the debacle at the end of the Bournemouth match where neither the officials nor the stewards came out very well, the City players will be glad to return to home comforts and their plush new dressing room. Sterling`s late, late winner and his subsequent sending off were the subject of much comment amongst pundits and fans alike with the majority view seeming to consider the action taken by Mike Dean as rather unnecessary and lacking any common sense under the circumstances. What actually bugged me about the whole sorry affair was that after the celebrations and the players returned to their positions, Sterling walked right past Dean who did not even give him a second look. Quite a few seconds passed before Dean then seemed to hear something in his ear-piece, turn around and point at Sterling as to confirm that this was the player the person in his ear was talking about, before walking after then lad and issuing the cards. What?
Surely if he considered the players actions worthy of a card for "over celebrating" it would have been straightforward to issue it when the guy walked right past you? Why wait? Made me wonder what was he told over the radio & by whom? And why, if the player that was to be held responsible had been identified, why wasn`t this information passed to him earlier? All very odd.
Wouldn`t it be so much better if the FA & Premier League adopted the same open mic policy adopted in rugby? Total transparency, clarity and absence of any ambiguity. What`s not to like?
The game of football is SO far behind the times in these areas it beggars belief.
The upshot of all this is that City enter this game once again with their chances of winning the Fair Play League seriously dented (again) - three league games played, seven bookings and two red cards - and will also be lacking the services of Raheem Sterling. Given the dog`s abuse he so unfairly receives from those chronically limited Liverpool fans (whose booing & attitude in this regard is depressing) this may not be a bad thing, however I for one would seriously like the lad to be able to give the performance of his life against them. The hypocrisy of this 'sign for my club you`re a hero; leave my club you`re a traitor` attitude drives me batty.
Klopp`s men come into the game having despatched Arsenal last time out with an ease which had the Gooner`s once again calling for Wenger`s head. That didn`t take long. Liverpool have been scoring freely this season, netting 17 times in 6 competitive matches. City`s defence are likely to be tested so we need to hope that Vincent Kompany`s withdrawal from the Belgian World Cup qualifier this week was precautionary. The defensive insecurities which emerged last season were largely a result of the lack of stability which his frequent absences caused. With three new full/wing backs still being integrated into the defensive unit the last thing that is needed now is the added layer of disruption and uncertainty created when planning for the upcoming fixture is shrouded in doubt over availability.
Last time out for City there were promising signs from new signings Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo. Silva took a while to settle into the game but he looks a real talent; Mendy clearly wasn't match fit but he still managed to deliver some super crosses. The pace of the league perhaps took him a bit by surprise - he got caught out inn e centre circle late in the game, a mistake which could have proved very costly against a better finishers, but I think he will do well. Danilo provided the cross for Sterling`s dramatic winner (not convinced it took a deflection at all by the way) and looks to have a quality that will add to the team. Doubtless the big debate will be about Pep`s offensive choices. Will he dare leave Aguero on the bench again and risk the inevitable headlines and criticism that will follow if he starts with Jesus alone up front? I am not sure Pep cares one way or the other but you can bet the hacks will be asking this question at his press conference as they desperately try to seek cracks in the relationship between player and manager.
City haven`t fared well against Liverpool in recent seasons with the only victory in the past six meetings coming in the 2016 League Cup Final thanks to the heroic penalty saves of Big Willy. Last time out at the Etihad it took a penalty for Liverpool to break the deadlock and a goal from Aguero (his fifth successive goal at the Etihad against them) to secure a share of the points. This was despite chances going a begging and the failure of Michael Oliver to award a penalty for either a push on Aguero early on or the more blatant foul on Sterling by Milner as the former Liverpool player was about to score. We await with interest how Jon Moss will fare. Odds on City finishing the game with ten men for the third match in a row?
A more clinical showing and a better result is needed this time out if City are to maintain their challenge for the title - not only because of the points at stake but because it now that this side is becoming Pep`s and it needs to start putting markers down against top teams. Liverpool will not sit back and so there can be no excuse of having to try and prise open the packed defensive lines we have witnessed elsewhere.
If there was ever a time to make a statement then this could be it. With the Sky analysis team doubtless packed with ex-Liverpool players (Rednapp & Souness for sure?) it would be oh so nice to make them sit up and watch Pep`s side in full flow.
Come on City!!!
Opponents - player to watch
Sadio Mané - the 25 year old Senegalese midfielder has netted three times already this season in the Premier League - the sort of goalscoring from midfield which can help sides win things.
Liverpool have so far averaged 21 tackles per game in the league so far this season. That is almost three times as many as City.
Referee - Jon Moss
Assistants - Eddie Smart; Andy Halliday
Fourth Official - Craig Pawson
Stats** comparison - 2017/18 Premier League:-
Goals per game - 1.3
Avg Possesion - 65.6%
Pass Accuracy - 86.7%
Shots per game - 17.3
Tackles per game - 11.7
Discipline - 7Y, 2R
Goals per game - 2.7
Avg Possesion - 55.9%
Pass Accuracy - 80.5%
Shots per game - 18.3
Tackles per game - 21
Discipline - 6Y, 0R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
The international break provides it`s usual concern with Vincent Kompany withdrawn from the Belgian side with a slight knock. Ideal. Gundogan could potentially make the bench. This week`s suspended player is Raheem Sterling. The sweepstake is now open as to which City player will next be on the FA`s Naughty Step.
Lallana, Clyne (still not forgiven him for his poor tackle on Aguero early in the 2012/13 season whilst playing for Southampton) and Bogdan will all be watching from the stands. Their new signing Oxlaide-Chamberlain could be in for a start in central midfield. Wonder if he will have a word with Miner before the game? After all…..James 'I`m not bitter` Milner left City to play in central midfield but has made the left back position his own.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
G Jesus, Aguero, Sane
Bravo, Mangala, Danilo, Toure, Silva B, Gundogan, Sanchez, Diaz