As we head into the new year, Anfield has one more humdinger of a matchup left to showcase as Liverpool host Manchester City in the final Premier League game of 2016. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are unbeaten in 16 home encounters and come off a thrilling 4-1 victory over Stoke City. Pep Guardiola’s Blues also managed to keep pace with league leaders Chelsea, winning by a three-goal cushion themselves, hammering Hull City 3-0 away from home.
Certainly, this game will not rule any of them out of the title race, but the winner of this match will be making one hell of a statement. Guardiola was in attendance at Anfield as he witnessed Klopp’s side put four past Stoke and move above them into second place.
This promises to be a cagey affair as both teams look to end 2016 off with a bang and keep in touching distance of league leaders, Chelsea.
Liverpool v Manchester City | Saturday 31 December | Anfield | 19:30
To Win (90 mins)
Liverpool 13/10 | Draw 49/20 | Manchester City 19/10
Sitting in second place and riding a 16-match unbeaten streak at Anfield, it’s safe to say that if the season were to end as it stands, expectations would be met by Jurgen Klopp. But it shouldn’t stop there for the Reds.
Liverpool have shown that they are as good as any team this season, and with the help of no UEFA Champions League or Europa League football, Klopp’s charges have the upper hand over most of their title rivals.
Losing out to Sevilla in last season’s UEFA Europa League final may be a blessing in disguise as Klopp has started to show some consistency in his starting line-ups. With Philippe Coutinho out injured for a while now, Divock Origi has come in and shown his quality, notching up four goals in the absence of the Brazilian.
That’s the beauty of this Liverpool side, they have goals in them from all over the pitch. With Daniel Sturridge coming on to score against Stoke, after being handed a gift of a back-pass, the Reds now have 12 different goalscorers this campaign – the equal most by any side in the league. In fact, it’s just their opponents, Manchester City, who have just as many goalscorers in their ranks.
Goals are always expected when Liverpool step foot on the pitch, with Klopp’s side averaging 2.5 goals per game, while also conceding an average of 1.17 goals per match. Liverpool might be the perfect team to defeat City before the new year. With their superb high pressing way of closing the ball down and having over 54 000 people chanting ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, City could be in for a rude awakening.
The Reds’ only major concern is their poor backline. Fair enough, Simon Mignolet has kept two clean sheets in three games since returning to the starting line-up, but a side of Liverpool’s calibre need a much better goalkeeper if they are to compete at the highest level. Somebody like Joe Hart would be the perfect signing in January, not to mention how affordable he is.
Adam Lallana has been in superb form with 7 goals and 6 assists this season. Joel Matip is not far from returning from an ankle injury, but Ragnar Klavan has been brilliant deputising for the Cameroonian centre-back. It’s Dejan Lovren that’s the problem. The full-back positions seem to pick itself these days with Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner providing Liverpool with great width on either flank.
This season has seen a totally different Liverpool led by a totally different captain. Jordan Henderson has bossed the middle of the park, making those crunching, decisive tackles and providing some killer passes, starting off the attack from a deep-lying position. The Englishman has completed 1607 passes in the league, more than any other player, and has really stepped up his game under Klopp.
With Coutinho out injured, the deadly attacking trio of himself, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have not been entirely missed as Liverpool have found a new man in place of Coutinho in the trio. Adam Lallana has been firing on all cylinders and looks a new man under Klopp: scoring 11 goals and providing 12 assists in 42 games under the German.
The trio of Mane, Lallana and Firmino look menacing with all three superstars playing a part in the goals going in for Liverpool. Mane is the club’s leading goalscorer this season with eight goals to his name, while also setting up four assists. Lallana has seven goals and six assists, while Firmino has six goals and three assists. That’s a staggering 34 goals that they have been involved in!
The Reds have all the right ingredients to hurt Man City, and a win would see them go four points clear of their title rivals.
After a recent slump in form, Manchester City have somewhat picked up the pieces in their title chase in Pep Guardiola’s first season at the helm. Winning three consecutive matches, the Citizens of Manchester coped quite fine without their star striker, Sergio Aguero, who will return to the fold this weekend.
Without Aguero, Man City first lost to champions, Leicester City, by a 4-2 scoreline, but then turned that performance around by beating Watford 2-0 at home, before putting Arsenal to the sword, humbling the Gunners to a 2-1 defeat.
City waited for their last game before Aguero returned to really show what they’re all about, thumping Hull City 3-0 at the KCOM Stadium. Despite the heavy scoreline, it took Man City 72 minutes to break the deadlock through a Yaya Toure penalty. And once they get going… you know what to expect.
Former Red, Raheem Sterling, has picked up his form in recent weeks, playing a part in two of City’s three goals on Monday. The 22-year old Englishman will return to Anfield, where he was so dearly loved by the Liverpool faithful. But now, I doubt he will receive any sort of warm welcome.
In defence, John Stones limped off injured when he made his comeback to the starting line-up against Hull and is now a doubt for the clash – which in all fairness, isn’t such a bad thing for City. Nicolas Otamendi has played his part in defence and looks to be the better of the two in that centre-back pairing. Guardiola would hate to admit it, be he is in desperate need of a Virgil van Dijk.
Fernandinho made his return from suspension and provided a great shield in front of the back four. Toure partnered Fernandinho in the pivot of midfield last time out and we could see that partnership keep its place in the starting line-up. Although, while City should look to signing van Dijk, they are also a Koke (from Atletico Madrid) away from being perfect.
With Aguero back in the mix, City have arguably the best attack in the league, including Sterling, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. Many people would say that De Bruyne alone could get things going for City, but with such class around him, the Citizens look a menacing force. De Bruyne has even deputised for Aguero up front at times, despite Pep having Kelechi Iheanacho available for selection. That’s not to say that the young Super Eagle hasn’t performed, it just proves that Man City have so much quality at their disposal.
City will rely on Aguero to fit his goalscoring boots back on and add to his tally of 10 goals this season. It may not be so difficult for Aguero, who will have De Bruyne behind him, making his job much easier. De Bruyne currently leads the assists charts with nine for the campaign. The duo should cause plenty of problems for Liverpool and with the Reds struggling defensively, they could run riot in attack.
Verdict: Liverpool Win & Both Teams to Score 2/1
Unlike every top team competing for the title, Liverpool don’t have just one or two players that they look to. The Reds have a number of players that can score goals, and as seen before, Klopp’s side have no problem outscoring their opposition. As mentioned before, Liverpool have defensive problems that look incurable at the moment. That said, Manchester City could find themselves on the scoresheet. Aguero, De Bruyne, Silva and former Red, Sterling, will certainly cause problems, but my money is on Liverpool. The home Win & Both Teams to Score is priced up at 2/1 and looks well worth a punt.
Written by Jesse Nagel for @Hollywoodbets