In other circumstances, this could well be a Premier League title decider in a frenetic race for the trophy. Instead, it’s a fixture with nothing at stake except minor bragging rights between the two teams involved.
Manchester City, champions of the last two seasons, officially lost that status after defeat at Chelsea last week confirmed Liverpool as this year’s Premier League winners. Pep Guardiola subsequently affirmed that his team will uphold the tradition of giving the newly-crowned champions a guard of honour upon their entrance to the Etihad Stadium pitch tonight.
With the Cityzens unable to catch the Reds and unlikely to be usurped by the teams below them, this is about as low-stakes as matches between Manchester City and Liverpool come in the modern era. However, it does give the vanquished Mancunians a chance to get one over on the team who took their title and complicate the efforts of Jurgen Klopp’s men to match or beat the 100-point total racked up by Guardiola’s side two years ago.
The Spaniard is likely to shuffle the pack to some extent here from the team that began the FA Cup win at Newcastle last Sunday. Football Transfer Tavern predicts that there will be three changes to his line-up from the starting XI at St James’ Park:
Claudio Bravo was given another cup outing against the Mapgies but the Chilean goalkeeper will likely make way for Ederson once again tonight. In defence, Fernandinho is suspended while John Stones and Eric Garcia are only feeling their way back from their respective injuries, so Guardiola will probably maintain the back four of Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi and Kyle Walker.
There could be a bit of a midfield reshuffle, where Manchester City’s options are much more plentiful. Rodri was given only a substitute outing at Newcastle so he could come back into the line-up at the base of midfield in place of Ilkay Gundogan. Kevin De Bruyne should keep his place, having been in fine form since the season restarted, while Phil Foden is pushing for a recall but may be kept in reserve as David Silva retains his starting position.
Who will win between Man City and Liverpool?
Guardiola might also tweak his attacking trident slightly. Gabriel Jesus should start at centre-forward, despite the manager experimenting with a false nine in the defeat at Chelsea a week ago. Raheem Sterling has scored just once in 12 games against his former club but, having recently rediscovered his form in front of goal, could be given the nod again on the left wing. On the other flank, Riyad Mahrez has started every game since the restart and might be rested in place of Bernardo Silva, who himself was only a substitute last Sunday.
Manchester City might not have either Sergio Aguero or Leroy Sane, their scorers in this fixture last season, to call upon but Guardiola should still be able to field a line-up strong enough to be capable of dampening Liverpool’s celebrations slightly.
Man City fans, is this the team that you would pick for tonight’s clash? What changes would you make, if any? Have your say by commenting below!
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