Manchester City host Liverpool on Thursday in what is, by far, the biggest Premier League match of the season.
The Citizens currently sit seven points behind the Reds in the Premier League table and could see their hopes of retaining the league title all-but ended if they don’t find a win at the Etihad.
That all-important win, however, will not be easy; Pep Guardiola has only beaten Jurgen Klopp once in seven attempts as Manchester City manager.
To add to that, City also come into the game on a run of three defeats in their last five league games and are without a Premier League clean sheet in their last 10 outings in all competitions.
In stark contrast, Liverpool are still unbeaten after 20 Premier League games, conceding just eight goals during that time; the lowest in the division.
So how will they line up? Read on for Man City v Liverpool predicted XIs from several media outlets.
1. De Bruyne to miss out, while Kompany retains his place
Much of the talk around Thursday’s clash is about whether Belgian supremo Kevin De Bruyne will be fit to face Liverpool.
In our own predicted line-up, we played it safe and suggested this game will come too early for the 27-year-old, who has been struggling with ligament injuries all season. Earlier in the campaign, Man City didn’t look to be missing De Bruyne too much but given their inconsistent form of late, Guardiola will be desperate to get him back as soon as possible. Bernardo Silva and David Silva, however, should be able to provide more than enough creativity in the midfield.
Meanwhile, further back, we are going for Vincent Kompany to retain his place alongside Aymeric Laporte, having managed 90 minutes in City’s 3-1 win over Southampton recently. The 32-year-0ld club captain has been a rock for Man City over the years and has often been the man for the big occasion; his experience will be vital on Thursday if City are to keep things tight in defence.
2. Henderson to replace Shaqiri as Klopp packs his midfield
Although he has not featured as regularly for Liverpool as he did last season, Jordan Henderson remains one of Klopp’s most trusted generals and London paper the Evening Standard predict he will once again come into midfield for this vital tie.
Henderson, Liverpool’s club captain, is regularly brought into the starting line-up for big games and this season, the England international has made 75.05 passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League, the second-highest for the club.
This in itself could be huge for Liverpool as Klopp will be keen to stop Manchester City dominating the ball and try to slow things down by allowing the Reds to have extended periods of possession. As a result, the much more attacking Xherdan Shaqiri is tipped to be sacrificed.
Evening Standard‘s predicted Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Fabinho; Mane, Salah, Firmino.
3. Guardiola turns to Danilo to shut down Salah & Co.
Another big question for Man City is how Guardiola addresses their left-back shortage. Fabian Delph remains suspended after picking up a straight red card in the 2-1 defeat to Leicester City and Benjamin Mendy is out till February with a knee injury.
The Spanish coach could turn to Zinchenko, but the Manchester Evening News think his solution will be to deploy the more experienced Danilo on the left side of his defence. There, the former Real Madrid defender could come up against Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
MEN‘s predicted Man City XI vs Liverpool: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Danilo; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva; Sane, Aguero, Sterling.
4. Complete defensive reshuffle as Pep seeks a clean sheet
The Times’ Paul Joyce has tipped Pep Guardiola to completely shake up his back-four as he desperately seeks a first clean sheet since November.
Joyce has predicted a return to action for Nicolas Otamendi, while also tipping the more mobile John Stones to be used to help deal with Liverpool’s dynamic front three, relegating Vincent Kompany to the bench. Injury to Benjamin Mendy, and wildly inconsistent form from the likes of Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Danilo have left City with something of a crisis at left-back; Aymeric Laporte could be entrusted to plug that particular leak.
Completing the back four would be Kyle Walker who can lack in his defensive discipline, but offers a great attacking outlet and could help pin Sadio Mane much further back, nullifying his sizable threat.