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Manchester City-Liverpool Preview: The Unstoppable Force Meets the Immovable Object

It’s been the fixture that has defined the Premier League title race three out of the past five seasons. In the 2018-19 season, it was Manchester City, who won 2-1 at home, dealing Jürgen Klopp’s Reds their only loss in the league that season, claiming the title. For the 2019-20 season, Liverpool thrashed City 3-1 at Anfield en route to wrapping up the Premier League title quicker than any side had before. And in 2021-22, Liverpool captured just four points from a possible six against City, losing out on the title by a single point on the final match day of the campaign.


These two clubs also finished first and second in three out of the past five seasons, both setting Premier League points records previously unheard of in the process. Two of the three title races between these clubs have been decided by a point, both in City’s favor. In 2018-19, City won the league with 98 points, while Liverpool finished with just 97, meaning the Reds had accumulated more points than any of the previous Premier League winners since the league’s founding in 1992. Although 2020-21 saw City finish ahead of the Reds by 17 points, the next season saw the two sides again achieve over 90 points each, taking the title race down to the final day. It’s no wonder that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, when asked about their rivalry with Liverpool, told Sky Sports, "We would not achieve what we have without them."


Again on Saturday, the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, as league leaders Manchester City take on second-place Liverpool at Etihad Stadium in the blue side of Manchester in the first of two games, which may again ultimately decide the Premier League title race.


Saturday’s matchup will feature the Premier League’s top scorers in Erling Haaland (13 goals) and Mohammed Salah (10 goals). In his career across all competitions against City since arriving at Liverpool, Salah has 11 goals, the most of any player in this fixture’s all-time history. Haaland, despite his prolific scoring record with Man City, has yet to find the net against Liverpool in a league game. Belgian talisman Kevin De Bruyne, who will be out with a hamstring injury, leads City’s active players with four goals in his career against Liverpool.


In the absence of De Bruyne, Guardiola might lean on Portuguese attacker Bernardo Silva (3 goals, 3 assists, 1,076 minutes vs. Liverpool) or Phil Foden (3 goals, 2 assists, 623 minutes vs. Liverpool) to provide the offensive spark. Newly acquired winger Jeremy Doku, who has seven scoring contributions in nine league appearances, or Argentina international Julián Álvarez, also with seven scoring contributions, may provide a spark off the bench should the match remain tight late on.


Meanwhile, Liverpool fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold may look to put his stamp on the fixture’s history books, given he’s only scored and assisted once against City. Liverpool and Uruguay international striker Darwin Nuñez, acquired by the Reds in the same window as City did Haaland, could also look to continue his current run of good form with a breakout performance against City. Fellow South American attacker Luis Diaz, who scored an emotional equalizer against Luton Town after missing games due to the unfortunate kidnapping of his mother and father by terrorists in his native Columbia, may bring an emotional edge to the game that will certainly be won or lost on the margins.


Between the sticks, Liverpool keeper Alisson leads the English top flight with a 78.7 save percentage on 38 saves from 47 shots on target, while his Brazilian compatriot Ederson ranks well below him in 16th with a 65.5 save percentage, with 19 saves from just 29 shots on target. That disparity, however, may speak more to tactical styles than quality. Both keepers have four clean sheets through 12 matches in the league this season, though Ederson started in 11 of those 12. However, historically speaking, they have two clean sheets in this fixture apiece. But, given, that Liverpool has a 100% record of conceding on the road while City has a 100% scoring rate at home, and given that neither side has failed to score in league play this season, don’t expect either to add to their total.


In their five home matches at the Etihad this season, City has taken an average of 3.00 points per game, while Liverpool has accumulated just 1.50 points per game on the road, dropping points to Luton Town, Chelsea, Brighton, and, albeit under extreme controversy, Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds last won on the road 3-1 against Wolverhampton Wanderers on September 16. Also, in those five home games, City is averaging 3.20 goals-for, compared to Liverpool’s 1.67 through six road games. It's not a matter of if City will score, but when, given they currently have a perfect record scoring first at home this season. How Liverpool, who has conceded first in 83% of their league away games, responds may potentially decide the outcome.


Should they win, Liverpool would deal Manchester City their first loss in six matches while improving their current run of six straight league games without a defeat en route to overtaking them at the top of the table. On the reverse, City could extend their streak of home victories to six from six games and end the Reds' five-game unbeaten run to maintain their spot at the top of the table. A draw, too, keeps City at the apex, albeit by only a single point, but history has demonstrated just how crucial that single point could be.


American audiences can tune into the game live on NBC’s Peacock streaming service early Saturday morning at 7:30 AM Eastern. I, for one, can’t think of a finer way to start a Saturday morning. While I'm not in the business of giving outright predictions, viewers should expect to see a cagey matchup that will be talked about well beyond the 90-minute window within which it’s contained. While it’s far too soon to call the title race in favor of anyone, this matchup will certainly be part of the reason it falls in either of these clubs’ favor should it pan out that way come spring.


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