Liverpool return to Premier League action this coming Sunday as they welcome league leaders Manchester City to Anfield for the weekends headline fixture.
Pep Guardiola’s side are yet to lose a game this season, whilst the Reds come into this match 17 games unbeaten.
The first clash between these two sides this season saw City win 4-0 after Sadio Mané’s sending off in the early stages of the match.
To get an opposing preview of this fixture we spoke to Jordan-Luke McDonald, a multimedia freelance journalist for a range of outlets.
This feels like a big game and one with the potential to be the best game to watch of the season. How confident are you feeling ahead of this one?
As a City supporter, it is never easy to feel confident when going into a game against one of the top teams, whether it is a domestic competition or in Europe.
Even with City’s impressive first half of the season and their current unbeaten status.
If the likes of Fabian Delph, Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva are available for selection, then that may help to calm the nerves.
I think the best way to sum it up is to say that I am confident in City’s abilities, but I am also ‘confident’ that Liverpool are a formidable force and it will not be an easy game.
Do you think Liverpool away is potentially the hardest match you’re going to face in the Premier League this season?
Without doubt. The game at the Etihad was very tense up until the Sadio Mane red card. When Mohamed Salah came off at half time, it helped City to control the tempo of the game.
At the point when City had really started to shine and people started to talk about an unbeaten Premier League campaign, I said right from the beginning that the one game that I can definitely see them losing is Liverpool away.
The Blues always seem to struggle at Anfield – it is an intense atmosphere – and Liverpool always seem to perform against the top sides.
Could the game at the Etihad have been a different story if it wasn’t for Sadio Mané’s sending off?
Definitely. Liverpool looked like scoring first for sure. But these things happen in football and it is about how you are able to deal with them – and how you actually deal with them. Bringing Salah off at half time was a mistake from Klopp, in my opinion.
And if Salah’s finishing was anywhere near its current level, Liverpool could have had the game wrapped up fairly early on. The fact that City ultimately ran away with the game 5-0 suggests that Liverpool did not reorganise effectively in the aftermath of the red card.
What have you made of Liverpool this season and how do you assess their chances of a top four finish?
Liverpool have been lethal. There have, once again, been question marks raised over their defensive capabilities. But the likes of Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all stepped up.
They have conceded 25 goals – of the top six, only Arsenal have conceded more – but the arrival of Van Dijk may very well change that. I said at the beginning of the season that top four was a certainty and a necessity. Hopefully, for Liverpool’s sake, that is true.
NEW: Klopp on Coutinho sale: "There was no other option."https://t.co/xe8N1XCZPT
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) January 12, 2018
How big a risk do you think Liverpool have taken by selling Philippe Coutinho halfway through the season?
It is certainly a risk. Despite his heart being in Barcelona since the summer, his head must have been saying ‘I am still a Liverpool player’ because he had been very, very good up until this point, even if he perhaps wasn’t fully committed, like with Alexis Sanchez.
Playing in a midfield three allowed him greater creative license and his ability to play from deep was up there with Kevin De Bruyne. As with Sanchez, it is scary to think what he could have been like this season if he had no intention of leaving.
Who do you think the club should be looking at as a replacement? Do you think someone needs to be brought in now?
If Liverpool are serious about competing for the Premier League and the Champions League, they need to sign a replacement. On the one hand, rushing into a panic purchase could be a disaster if they have not properly scouted and thought through their options.
On the other hand, again linking it back to Sanchez, if Liverpool really have sold one of their best players without a replacement lined up, it would be utterly bizarre.
The issue with Coutinho is that he is capable of playing anywhere in midfield and out on the wing, so Klopp has kind of lost two players in one. Finding someone to replace him will not be easy.
Thoughts on the signing of Virgil van Dijk? A player you’d have liked to see at City?
I would have loved to have seen Van Dijk at City. I was gutted to find out that he had, in fact, chosen Liverpool over the Blues. However, he will be the perfect player to rebuild a more solid defence around. He is a potential future captain of the club, in my eyes.
Do you think City have started to look a little more rusty in recent weeks? Could it be a good time for Liverpool to play you?
With all of the fixtures played over the course of the festive period, City did extremely well to maintain their fantastic run with large amounts of squad rotation, even if it meant that the performances were not exactly fantastic themselves. No time is a good time to play City at the moment!
How do you expect City to set up team-wise? I notice the likes of Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho and Aguero didn’t start on Tuesday. Any injuries?
Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Stones, Delph, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Aguero, Sane.
The team basically picks itself at this stage.
In terms of injuries, Benjamin Mendy, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are unavailable.
The Liverpool player you think City need to be most wary of?
It has got to be Mohamed Salah. 17 goals and 5 assists in 19 Premier League starts is an incredible return for the Egyptian. His pace, trickery and deadly finishing could cause problems for City.
However, the issue is that City cannot focus their attentions solely on Salah. If they do, the likes of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané could hurt them.
The City player you think could cause Liverpool the most problems?
Kevin De Bruyne, who has just been named in the UEFA team of the year and rightfully so. He is on fire at the moment. So much of what Guardiola’s outfit does goes through him.
Yet, as with Liverpool, City have such an abundance of attacking talent that attempting to take the Belgian out of the game will just give even more space to players like Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Your score prediction?
City always struggle at Anfield and I can see this game being a similar affair. But I also have a feeling that City will be able to maintain their unbeaten run in the league.
There will definitely be goals, so I will go for a 2-2 draw.