The two form sides of the English Premier League meet when Liverpool host leaders Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday (11am ET).
These teams sit first and second in the form table over the course of the last six matches, with Man City picking up 16 points to Liverpool’s 14. City are undefeated in the league this season, while Liverpool’s last defeat in any competition came back in October.
Indeed, since that 1-4 loss away to Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool are second only to City in terms of points won, while no team has scored more than the 36 goals they have netted in that time. After picking up just 1.44 points per match over the course of their first nine matches, Liverpool have accumulated 2.38 points per match in their subsequent 11.
In that time, they have leapfrogged Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to move up into fourth, whilst also cutting a seven-point gap to Manchester United to just three. Some statistics-based models predict they will finish the campaign ahead of United, while almost all suggest they should be able to hold off Arsenal and Spurs to at least secure another top-four finish.
One potential counterbalance to that thesis is the uncertainty over how they will deal with the departure of Philippe Coutinho, who has left to join Barcelona in an initial £106 million deal. The Brazilian midfielder provided seven goals and six assists in his 14 appearances this season, representing a direct contribution to a goal for every 87 minutes he was on the pitch. He was also the team’s most individually creative player.
Yet Liverpool have actually got on better in their matches without Coutinho than those with him so far this season. With him, they have accumulated 1.85 points per match; without him, 2.22. Their scoring rate is also very marginally better without him, suggesting Liverpool’s system is capable of making up for the absence of his individual ingenuity.
Just how that works out against top-quality opposition will be given an early and stern test against Manchester City. In that context, coach Jurgen Klopp will be very glad to be able to call on top scorer Mohamed Salah. He sat out last weekend’s FA Cup victory over Everton with a groin injury but is expected to make his return on Sunday.
Man City have played twice since Liverpool’s win over Everton, with a 4-1 victory over Burnley in the FA Cup third round followed by a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Bristol City in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday. Pep Guardiola made a few changes to his normal starting XI for the latter match but still fielded a strong side that found the going surprisingly tough against Championship opposition.
Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score the late winner after Man City had started the match without a recognised striker. In the absence of Gabriel Jesus, who has been ruled out of action for a couple of months after picking up a knee injury in the draw with Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve, Guardiola was keen to save Aguero for the trip to Anfield.
The Argentinian will most likely form part of a front three with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane – City’s two rapid and incisive wingers. Sterling has been in particularly good form this season, scoring 14 goals and providing four assists in league play. He will be keen to make a decisive contribution against his former club on Sunday.
That Man City will win the league title now seems a foregone conclusion. They enjoy a 15-point advantage over United in second, are yet to lose a league match this season and have both the best goalscoring and the best defensive record in the Premier League. It also seems they are keen to add a couple of new faces in January, including Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez.
They are fearsome opponents for any side, as Liverpool found in their 5-0 defeat away at the Etihad earlier this season. The course of the match was, however, undoubtedly conditioned by Sadio Mane’s first-half red card. While both teams were at their full complement it was an attractive, back-and-forth encounter, with plenty of incident at both ends.
That is again likely to be the case on Sunday in what should be an entertaining 90 minutes of football. These two teams look well-matched at this moment in time, but Man City still have a slight edge.
Our Preview’s Liverpool vs Manchester City Picks & Predictions Verdict
Having checked the best odds from the big US sportsbooks, here is our preview’s betting prediction and pick: