Liverpool have back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time in 2017. If ever the Reds needed a boost in confidence ahead of a daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium, the games against Arsenal and Burnley have provided just that.
Pep Guardiola’s side will be still nursing their wounds from Wednesday’s humbling Champions League exit in Monaco. The Spaniard will no doubt be under pressure, as his first season in the English league increasingly threatens to go haywire. City are not guaranteed qualification for next year’s Champions League add to that the four teams in the FA Cup, all from the Premier League top-six, and it could well end up being the Citizens’ worst season since the big money Abu Dhabi takeover happened.
For Liverpool, the motto will be “more of the same”. In the context of the mini-league between the top-six, Jurgen Klopp’s side has the most points. The Reds are unbeaten against any of those teams, and Sunday’s match will represent the last of our games against them.
Here are some key individual battles to look forward on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero v Joel Matip
Matip will, in all probability have Dejan Lovren, his regular centre-back partner, by his side on Sunday. (I cannot believe I am saying this.) Liverpool’s defensive record when Lovren hasn’t played has been abysmal. He has his fallacies and chooses to exhibit them at the most inopportune of moments, but Lovren has forged a partnership with Matip that has looked capable of getting the job done.
But, the German will have huge responsibilities on his shoulders. He was signed as the leader of the defence, and he has looked the part for the majority of his stay. On Sunday, the challenge for Matip will be as tough as they come in the Premier League.
In general, it hasn’t mattered how Aguero played in the games leading up the ones against us, but always was a thorn in our flesh. In that way, his recent struggles should mean nothing. With players like Aguero, it just takes one moment, one touch of the football to get that mojo back.
Matip has a huge responsibility because City’s attacks generally start from the wide areas, and with both full-backs looking suspect recently, he cannot afford to let Aguero get into positions where he can get on the end of crosses.
As with any partnership, the communication between Matip and the rest of the back four will be imperative to a good performance. The movement of Aguero, Leroy Sane and *He who must not be named* is unpredictable and rapid.
If there is even a momentary lapse, City will pounce.
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