This Manchester City team is a title-winning machine and equipped with a plethora of world class talent. Their aim this weekend is clear: win at all costs and cut the gap. Anfield, Klopp and players must (and will) be ready to fight fire with fire. A titanic tussle will inevitably follow, writes @sam0007ster.
It’s the big one. The champions of Europe host the kings of England in what is a mouth-watering prospect. A win for the Reds would open up a nine point gap – yes NINE – between them and the Citizens.
The Reds are in excellent form. Klopp’s men have not lost a single Premier League fixture since January. City, by contrast, have lost just three. These are arguably the two best teams in Europe locking horns and the stakes could not be higher.
It’s been a week of controversy. Last weekend Guardiola labelled Sadio Mane “a diver” in the aftermath of the Senegalese’s last minute winner against Villa. The Spaniard has since withdrawn his comment, but it didn’t go unnoticed (and that’s putting it mildly).
Klopp in his pre-Genk press-conference – clearly agitated by the prospect of what is tritely called ‘mind games’ – was in no mood to get involved. He did, however, make a jab at City hinting that they purposefully make ‘tactical fouls’.
Who can blame Guardiola? He is yet to win at Anfield as manager of City, or for that matter, in his entire managerial career. He needs this.
But the omens aren’t good. The Reds have scored eleven goals against City at Anfield under Klopp. Four wins. One draw. Zero defeats. In fact, City haven’t come away from Anfield with three points for sixteen years.
Anfield is certainly a daunting place. But for City – whose riches are unparalleled – and Guardiola the barren spell will serve both as source of frustration and inspiration. Expect a fiery encounter with a palpable sense of ‘winner takes it all’.
City goalkeeper Ederson has been ruled out which means the much-maligned Chilean Claudio Bravo is set to deputise. It goes without saying that this news should to be taken with a large chunk of salt.
For the Reds, Klopp has confirmed that there are no new injury concerns. Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri, of course, remain sidelined.
The German has also quelled concerns over the fitness of captain Jordan Henderson who missed the win over Genk on Tuesday due to illness. Whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the winner and impressed in that game, the former is expected to start.
The big question is whether Klopp recalls Joe Gomez to partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of defence. Since Dejan Lovren has had a full week to rest and recuperate, he may get the nod.
Sam’s predicted line-up (4-3-3): Alisson; Trent A-A, Lovren, Van Dijk, Roberston; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah
Up the Reds.