Matthew Sinton takes a look at Liverpool’s massively important Premier League match with Manchester City at Anfield this afternoon.
This afternoon the Reds will make the trip to the Etihad Stadium to play Manchester City. I know we seem to be saying this every week at the moment, but this is a very big game in terms of our top four hopes, especially with Arsenal dropping points this weekend in their defeat to West Brom. This will be our final game of the season against ‘top six’ opposition, and we remain unbeaten against these sides. Our remaining fixtures after today would look very promising for a lot of teams, but we are yet to prove that is the case for us this season.
Our home game against City on New Year’s Eve was a very nervous one which saw us hold on to a 1-0 lead provided by a Georginio Wijnaldum header in the 8th minute. Ragnar Klavan had probably the best defensive performance I’ve seen from him that night so let’s hope he can do the same tonight if, as I expect, he makes the starting eleven.
Our overall record against Manchester City has been very good in recent years. We have won each our last four games against the Blues and our last defeat against them came in August 2014. This should give us confidence, but I don’t like to pay too much attention to the head to head records. We should remember the humiliations came in Pellegrini’s reign at the club, they have a new manager now and the game earlier this season was only a hard-fought 1-0.
There aren’t many options for the starting eleven this week, as we face more injury worries. Henderson and Sturridge are certain to be out again and Divock Origi is a doubt, however, Roberto Firmino could make a return and Dejan Lovren is ready to play again. Firmino will certainly start if he is ready, but I think Klavan will keep his place over Lovren, just for this week, based on recent performances. With all of the above considered, here’s how I expect us to line up tonight: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Jöel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, James Milner, Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino.
Phillipe Coutinho has not been in good form at all since his return from injury, but we all know how capable he is, especially in big games and especially against Manchester City. I’d be very surprised to see him lose his place as we don’t really have anyone to replace him.
Of course, our poor form since January and Chelsea running away with the Premier League title means our only target for the rest of the season is a top-four place. Tonight is a perfect opportunity to capitalise on our rivals Arsenal slipping up and to gain some ground on City and Spurs. Let’s hope the Reds don’t let us down!