A return of form is exactly what Liverpool needed and it’s exactly what’s happened. The stumble against West Ham hardly seems the disaster we all thought it was after throwing away points at Bournemouth. We are still within touching distance of Chelsea and perhaps, granted a win on Saturday night, we’d be the clear favourites – outside of Chelsea – for the title.
Since the aforementioned draw against The Hammers, Liverpool have won three games on the bounce. Two of which have been won by a three-goal margin. Each week, I look up at Chelsea and wonder how we’re going to topple them, but, just for one moment, let’s have a look down the table…
We are now 13 points ahead of the team in the last European spot – Everton – and we have a game in-hand too. We are also four points clear of Spurs in fifth; I’m not saying that’s enough of a gap to ensure Champions League football but some over-enthusiastic pundits would have Chelsea given the title now – and they’re only six points off of us.
The weekend’s opponents are a club I have a fresh hatred for – Manchester City; a club hard has gone from near-semi-professional to Premier League Champions in the time I’ve been a Liverpool fan, with only money to thank for the latter.
They’re symbolic of what I hate in football and nothing would please me more than to smash them in our back yard this weekend, a place not many teams take points away from lately, and go four points clear and further extend our superior goal difference.
I should explain myself, really. I think my hatred of City – and Chelsea – stems from my appreciation of modern football; it’s unbelievably difficult to go from League Two to the Premier League and the entire country turns when it happens.
That’s not what has happened with City, to be fair; they were a Premier League side when they got injected with cash but, as we’re now seeing with RB Leipzig, football fans don’t like it when a club that doesn’t belong threatens what they’ve always known and it comes from jealousy.
Am I jealous that City were able to splash the cash over the last few years and sign players that should have been, by all accounts – apart from the bank – out of their league? Yes, but let’s ignore all that and concentrate on the football on the pitch.
City are in a fine bit of form themselves; since their 4-2 humbling at the King Power Stadium against Leicester, they’ve won three on the bounce. One of those games was against Arsenal too.
Saying that, Everton beat Arsenal 2-1 a few weeks ago.
It’s not going to be easy against this weekend’s visitors though; we don’t have the luxury of Phil Coutinho, who would, naturally, bury one from 40 yards.
We usually put in a good shift against City and, especially as it’s a chance for Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola to go head-to-head, I hope it’s the same this time around too.
It seems as if Joel Matip has picked up a new injury, so it’s to be expected that he sit this one out.
That would be devastating if we were forced to pair Dejan Lovren with Martin Skrtel but, luckily for us, Klopp brought in Ragnar Klavan last summer and he’s been a revelation.
Genuinely, no qualms over having Klavan fill in for Matip – it would be nice to have our preferred centre half, however.
A boost for Liverpool was the return of Daniel Sturridge; he came odd the bench against Stoke and scored within a few minutes of coming on. We got to see that lovely dance again – oh, how I’ve missed that dance.
He may play a part in Saturday’s game but I think his role will be small. I think Divock Origi will start the game and, if a goal is needed, then I think the introduction of former Man City’s man Sturridge will be a must.
Coutinho has spent a long time on the sidelines and, even though he’s set to recover a lot quicker than expected, it would be optimistic to expect anything more than a passing cameo from the Brazilian.
City have been handed their own bit of fortune however; the nightmare that is Sergio Aguero is penned in the make his return against Liverpool.
He has now served his full ban, which he picked up for nothing short of a GBH offence against David Luiz a few weeks back, and he’ll undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to get on the score sheet.
Following Ilkay Gundogan’s death – which he’s scheduled to return from just in time for the season to end – City have John Stones going in for a late fitness test ahead of Saturday’s game, meaning he might just make it back in time to face off against his old rivals.
Also Vincent Kompany aiming to return in the New Year and Leroy Sane suffering from a new muscle injury which should keep him out of the game too. City’s captain is a very important defensive player for them and keeping him out so he can’t sturdy up their shaky defence would be a very good thing for Liverpool.
Liverpool (last six results in all competitions) –
Liverpool 4-1 Stoke
Everton 0-1 Liverpool
Middlesbrough 0-3 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-2 West Ham
Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-0 Leeds
Man City (last six results in all competitions) –
Hull 0-3 Man City
Man City 2-1 Arsenal
Man City 2-0 Watford
Leicester 4-2 Man City
Man City 1-1 Celtic
Man City 1-3 Chelsea
I don’t know about you but I feel much better for having a look at their recent form; they keep a clean sheet as often as Simon Mignolet catches a cross or Loris Karius saves a free kick…
Or as us.
Genuinely, this will be our biggest test of the season.
We are without our talisman and we’re going up against a manager who often had the better of ours.
This is the least confident I have felt going into a game all season. Luckily, we have won our last three games comfortably – we could have put three or four through Everton on another day – and have built some momentum.
Problem is, City have done the same and their talisman is coming straight back into the squad and he loves a goal at Anfield.
I think we have to get things into perspective for this one. A draw wouldn’t be the worst result. It’d be a much worse result for them, as they’d be stuck behind us and we’d stand firm ahead of them.
We do, however, need to keep up with Chelsea’s pace and the only way to do that is to win matches.
My heart tells me that Klopp’s red army will go out in force and tear apart City but my brain says otherwise.
I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong but I’m going with a rather dull prediction – a Kop out, if you like. Liverpool 2-2 Man City.
If you’d like to strongly disagree with me or remind me of what I’ve written, after Gundogan makes the starting team and Sturridge scores an own goal, you can find me on Twitter – @StefanoHairon