Manchester City at Liverpool – Premier League Pick October 7
Prior to the beginning of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign, most experts believed Liverpool would emerge as the primary challengers to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side is fresh off a dominant campaign in which they won the English top flight by a whopping 25-point margin. City mustered a record 100 points last term, while Manchester United finished second with 75. It wasn’t even close. City had the Premier League title locked up by mid-April.
Liverpool are coming off of an impressive campaign of their own. While the Reds finished just fourth in the league, Jurgen Klopp led the team all the way to the Champions League Final. Liverpool were ultimately beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, 3-1, but the team made massive strides last season. They also won 3 of the 4 head-to-head meetings with City, including back-to-back wins in Champions League.
Over the summer, Klopp and the Liverpool board spent big money in an attempt to narrow the gap between the sides. Liverpool splurged on the likes of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, central midfielder Fabinho and attacker Xherdan Shaqiri. Liverpool also brought Naby Keita over from Germany after the player was officially signed in the summer of 2017.
So far, Liverpool have stuck with City. Entering Sunday’s clash at Anfield, City and Liverpool are both sitting on a league-leading 19 points. The defending champions are technically top of the table due to goal differential. City have a goal differential of plus-18 already, while Liverpool are at plus-12 through the first 7 matches of the new campaign.
The lone blemish on City’s resume to this point this season was a 1-1 draw against newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers. Guardiola’s side have picked up league victories over Arsenal, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle, Fulham, Cardiff City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea last weekend, marking their lone non-win of the year. The Reds have victories over West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove Albion, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton.
Manchester City ran into very few obstacles last season, but Guardiola and company simply could not solve Liverpool. Both teams employed 4-3-3 formations in their tilts last season, while Liverpool would shift to a 4-5-1 whenever City enjoyed spells of possession. City would go into more of a 4-1-4-1 in the reverse situations. Some new players have come in, but both teams figure to go with the same formations this time around.
Guardiola said this week that there is a good chance star attacker Kevin De Bruyne returns to the pitch. De Bruyne was initially not expected to return to action until after the international break after damaging some knee ligaments earlier in the season, but he returned to training last week and may well be included in the squad on Sunday.
Defender Benjamin Mendy, who has been sidelined for the last 6 games due to a bruised foot, is also likely to return to the fold. However, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and defender Fabian Delph are both expected to miss the clash this weekend.
Liverpool are mostly healthy. The lone potential absence for the Reds could be Naby Keita, who was forced to leave Wednesday’s Champions League tilt against Napoli early due to injury. His status for Sunday is still up in the air. Virgil Van Dijk has recovered from a bruised rib issue, while Divock Origi has recovered from his ankle problem. Van Dijk’s inclusion is huge for Liverpool, as he has almost single-handedly transformed Klopp’s defense into one of the better units in the league since his arrival from Southampton a little less than a year ago.
Klopp knows notching a fourth win in 5 against Guardiola won’t be easy. Klopp said, “We have to be spot on, on our best to keep them away from our goal and create chances in front of our goal. It will be hard work, no problem with that, everybody knows it. We beat City three times last season and not once after any of those games did we go to the dressing room and think ‘now we know how to beat them.'”
City striker Sergio Aguero will be an obvious player to watch here. The Argentina international has bagged 148 career Premier League goals, though he has yet to find the back of the net in any of his previous 9 appearances at Anfield. The Reds have also not allowed a single goal in any of their previous 9 Premier League matches at home overall.
This is what it’s all about. Sunday brings us perhaps the marquee Premier League matchup of the season with the two clubs I believe will wind up duking it out for league supremacy. Liverpool won this fixture last year in a 4-3 thriller back in January that turned out to be City’s first loss in the league all season.
Manchester City have the more established defense between the sides, but the gap has certainly closed since Van Dijk and Alisson helped fortify Liverpool’s back line. While both teams have been impressive defensively, I think we’re going to see some scoring in this one.
Liverpool will need the trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to get going if they are to have a real chance of dethroning the defending champs. Mane has found the back of the net 4 times in league play this season, while Salah has scored thrice and Firmino twice. Salah in particular has struggled to find his goalscoring form after scoring more than 40 times in all competitions last season. A potential statement game against City would be a good time for Salah to find himself again.
These are arguably the two most prolific attacks in England, and the goals have come in bunches in their recent meetings. This game has been tabbed with an over/under of 3 goals. I think that’s certainly fair, but I’m still inclined to take the over here. One of these teams could go over 3 on their own, so that’s my favorite bet on the board in this one.
Liverpool are at +147 to win the game outright at home, while City are at +181 to win. The draw comes in at a nice price of +225. I don’t think you can ever write off a draw between a couple of evenly-matched squads like this, so if you want to go there at +225 I certainly won’t talk you out of it.
Liverpool have a great track record at Anfield, while Manchester City have not won a game in the league at Liverpool’s ground since way back in 2003. I think that streak continues for at least another season. Give me Liverpool to win it outright at +147. Feel free to parlay that along with the over on 3 goals in this weekend’s marquee Premier League affair.
$100 stake could win...