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Premier League Matchweek 23 preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City (Sun - 16:30h. GMT; 17:30h. CET) - Team news, possible lineups

The Premier League champions host the leaders in the pick of the fixtures in gameweek 23 as Liverpool welcome title rivals Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

Seven points separate the two sides in the table following a poor run of form for the Reds, coupled with a relentless winning streak from Pep Guardiola's men in recent weeks.

Match preview

So often in recent seasons this has been the fixture to have the biggest impact on the title race and, while there are more teams also in contention this time around, it could once again be a pivotal showdown.

It is arguably more important to Liverpool than Man City, though, with the visitors' recent form giving them some margin for error whereas Liverpool's untimely slump has left them with a mountain to climb already.

A run of just two wins in their last eight Premier League outings has left Jurgen Klopp's side seven points adrift of the leaders having played a game more, and should that gap grow to 10 - or even stay at seven - this weekend then it is difficult to see them making up the deficit over the remainder of the season.

Sunday's contest may well fall into the must-win category as far as Liverpool's title hopes are concerned, then, although Klopp has been quick to insist that his side cannot be focused on the title, but rather on their top-four chances.

The champions could have been knocked out of the Champions League places by the time they kick off on Sunday and are now as close to eighth-placed Tottenham Hotspur as they are to their table-topping visitors this weekend.

The latest setback saw Liverpool fall to a limp and lifeless 1-0 defeat at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday night - a second consecutive home league defeat having gone 68 such matches without losing before that.

For fortress Anfield to have crumbled so quickly will be a major concern for Klopp, and you have to go back to September 1963, 57 years ago, for the last time they lost three home league games on the bounce.

On paper that may look like the most likely scenario against a Man City side in such good form, but Liverpool's recent problems have come against teams that have packed men behind the ball and limited the space - something Guardiola is unlikely to do.

There should therefore be more space for Liverpool to operate in and, given the champions' poor form against the bottom six so far this season, there is logic to suggest that victory over a team like Man City would actually be more likely than one over Brighton at the moment.

Certainly, the hosts will be confident of carving out more goalscoring chances in an open game, although it is difficult to ignore the fact that they are still yet to find the back of the net at Anfield in 2021 - a run of 348 minutes without a goal.

Liverpool have never before gone four successive home league games without a win but, while they will be expecting more freedom for their strikers, they are also coming up against the best defence in the country by some distance.

Man City have shipped just 13 goals in their 21 Premier League outings so far this season, and the last of those came more than a month ago on January 3.

The leaders have kept six clean sheets on the bounce since then which means that they have now kept more clean sheets than they have conceded goals this season, preventing the opposition from scoring in 14 of their 21 games.

Another one on Sunday would see them record seven successive Premier League clean sheets for the first time, but an even more impressive slice of history is also within their grasp as they look to equal the best-ever winning run for an English top-flight club across all competitions.

Preston North End in January 1892 and Arsenal in November 1987 are the only clubs to have won 14 games in a row, and Man City are currently on a run of 13 having won every single one of their outings since being held to a draw by West Bromwich Albion on December 15.

Nine of those victories have come in the Premier League to catapult them to the top of the table, most recently easing to a 2-0 triumph over Burnley on Wednesday evening.

Guardiola has also had the luxury of being able to rotate his players in recent weeks while maintaining their winning run, meaning that his squad should be relatively fresh for an upcoming difficult spell which sees Man City face Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Arsenal, West Ham United and Manchester United in their next six Premier League games.

Man City will know from past experience that they cannot allow their gaze to drift any further than Sunday right now, though, as they look to overcome a poor Anfield record which has seen Guardiola fail to win any of his five visits across all competitions.

The Citizens have won four of their last five away games against the reigning Premier League champions, although they are winless in 14 previous meetings with Liverpool while the Reds have held the title.

The balance of power in those 14 games was vastly different to how they find it now, though, and Man City will know that victory at the home of the champions this weekend could be another important marker on their way to regaining the title.

Liverpool Premier League form: LDLWWL
Liverpool form (all competitions): DLLWWL

Manchester City Premier League form: WWWWWW
Manchester City form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Team News

Liverpool could be handed a triple injury boost ahead of this match, with Klopp confirming that Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker and Fabinho will all be back in training beforehand.

Alisson missed the Brighton defeat due to illness but is now feeling better, while Mane and Fabinho have overcome relatively minor muscle problems and should go straight back into the starting lineup.

The champions' injury problems are still extensive - Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez could all miss the remainder of the season, while Diogo Jota and Naby Keita remain sidelined too - but their options have at least been bolstered by deadline day business.

New arrivals Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies are both in contention to make their debuts, which should free up captain Jordan Henderson to return to midfield after a spell at centre-back.

Question marks have been raised over whether Thiago Alcantara could drop out of the side, but Klopp is likely to keep faith with the midfielder in a team which will be far closer to their strongest possible XI with the returning trio.

Man City are also without a couple of key players in Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, both of whom will miss the trip to Anfield due to fitness issues.

The visitors' form has not been affected by the absence of those two world-class stars, though, and Guardiola has the welcome headache of having to choose which of his in-form players start on Sunday.

Gabriel Jesus will be hoping that goals in his last two games earn him a starting role, while the likes of Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Benjamin Mendy and Ferran Torres all missed out against Burnley.

Aymeric Laporte played at left-back in that match but may drop out unless Guardiola opts to switch things up with a three-at-the-back formation as he has done at times recently.

Raheem Sterling is expected to start against his former club, and he needs just one more goal to reach 100 under Guardiola - a tally only Lionel Messi and Aguero have managed before.

Arguably the first name on the team sheet right now is Ilkay Gundogan, who has contributed to eight goals in his last 10 Premier League outings - as many as he had in his previous 61.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Bernardo, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling

Head To Head

For all of their success in recent years, Anfield remains a bogey ground for Man City, who have come away from the red half of Merseyside with victory just once in their last 29 league visits.

That solitary triumph came all the way back in May 2003, 17 games ago, and in this fixture as a whole the team playing away has come out on top just once in the last 24 Premier League meetings.

The reverse fixture in November ended in a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium, with Jesus cancelling out Mohamed Salah's early penalty as the spoils were shared.

Source: Sports Mole / Barney Corkhill

 

 

 

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