Mo Salah against Manchester City
Liverpool and Manchester City will lock horns at Anfield this weekend in what promises to be a thrilling Premier League encounter.
With Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp at the helm, an intriguing and respectful rivalry has developed between the two sides over the past two years. A win for either team would see them go top of the Premier League table. That being said, Klopp’s side are currently on a three-game winless run against Manchester City.
The Reds will certainly look to change that on Sunday. The game has a lot of excitement building up to it given that it has been one of the most high-scoring encounters in recent history.
Both sides will have to do without a few important players but have plenty of quality across the pitch. Manchester City’s encounters with Liverpool are often as personal as they are tactical, and both sets of players will want to win their battles on the pitch. With all that in mind, let’s have a look at the five key battles that could determine the outcome of the game this Sunday:
#5 James Milner vs. Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish for Manchester City
Trent Alexander Arnold’s absence due to a muscle injury means James Milner is the most likely candidate to replace him on the right side of Liverpool’s defense. Primarily a midfielder, Milner has often been deployed in a number of positions by Jurgen Klopp in recent seasons.
Milner’s versatility has been a handy asset for the Reds in their past success, but whether he will be able to cope-up with Manchester City’s £100m summer signing Jack Grealish, remains a question to be asked.
Grealish has seamlessly adapted to Guardiola’s system and has been a mainstay for the Blues this season. In fact, he is Pep Guardiola’s most used player so far this season.
Grealish’s one-on-one prowess and his efficient dribbling in tight spaces means Milner will need to be on his toes throughout the game to deal with his potential threat. Grealish, on the other hand, will look to take a full toll on Milner’s aging legs to give his side a better chance at winning the game.
#4 Curtis Jones vs. Rodri
Curtis Jones playing for Liverpool
Perhaps the most intriguing battle in this game will be the one that is also the most unexpected. The battle between Spain international Rodri and Liverpool’s 20-year-old sensation Curtis Jones will certainly play an important role in the outcome of the game.
With Thiago Alcantara out due to a calf injury, it is fair to say that youngster Curtis Jones has taken his chances with both hands.
The 20-year old is coming into the game off of a stellar Champions League display against FC Porto, having supplied two quality assists in a routine 5-1 win for the Reds.
The same could be said for Rodri, who himself has been enjoying an immense season so far with Manchester City. The Spaniard is a master at controlling games with his immaculate and constant passing, and he’ll look to do the same against Liverpool.
If Rodri manages to cut Jones out and control the game as well as he normally does then the pendulum will almost certainly swing in City’s favor.
#3 Sadio Mane vs. Kyle Walker
Forward Sadio Mane for Liverpool
Sadio Mane hasn’t quite been at his absolute best lately but he still has 4 goals in 8 appearances so far this season. Although his numbers are decent, the Senegalese international’s overall gameplay has declined a lot in the past year.
The left-winger has been inconsistent in his in-game decision making and has also missed a lot of good chances. He is set to face the daunting task of getting the better of Manchester City right back, Kyle Walker.
Walker is a crucial part of a Manchester City defense that has amassed 5 clean sheets and has only conceded one league goal so far in this new Premier League campaign. This battle is going to be extremely crucial in determining the outcome of the game and thus it becomes even more important for either to come out on top.
#2. Jordan Henderson vs. Kevin de Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne playing for Manchester City
Jordan Henderson is one of those players who don’t get enough credit for their work. There aren’t many players who drive up a team’s morale and energy quite like the Liverpool captain. Often criticized for lacking ability on the ball, the Liverpool skipper makes up for it with his drive and workrate off it.
However, Henderson is set to face arguably the best player in the Premier League in Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne’s presence alone makes Manchester City an altogether different prospect.
Henderson will be up against a player that is well-capable of turning the game on its head given the slightest bit of space and time on the ball.
So this is an important tussle in the middle of the park for both sides and if De Bruyne gets in his groove on Sunday, then the game will certainly turn in Manchester City’s favor.
#1 Mohammed Salah vs. Ruben Dias
Mohammed Salah and Ruben Dias
Mohammed Salah is without a doubt one of the best wingers in Premier League history. The Egyptian magician has racked up goals and assists at a blistering pace since his arrival in the Premier League four years ago.
Salah has once again started his season in exhillerating fashion with 10 goal contributions in just 8 games so far this season. However, he will be up against Ruben Dias, a player who single-handedly transformed Manchester City’s defense last season and has not looked back since.
Dias could be key for Manchester City to stop Salah’s unrelenting goalscoring exploits. Recently rewarded with the captain’s armband for his stellar first season in the Premier League, Dias’ battle with Salah will be an interesting and important one.