Liverpool have won the Premier League title race with seven games to spare, and Kevin Hatchard believes they can rub further salt into Manchester City's wounds...
"City are missing key players, and although this is a chance for them to show their quality, they face a Liverpool side that has lost just one league game."
Manchester City v Liverpool
Thursday 02 July, 20:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
City's fragility defies the numbers
As Manchester City give Liverpool a guard of honour at the Etihad, some of their players may wonder how it came to this. Liverpool are worthy champions, a team that has dropped just seven points all season in a show of skill, guts and intelligence. City matched them stride for stride in last season's thrilling race for the title, and Pep Guardiola's side won by a single point. This term they find themselves 23 points adrift, undoubtedly the best of the rest, but unable to lay a glove on the Reds in the fight for the league.
The Expected Goals numbers from Infogol tell an interesting story. They suggest that City should be top of the table, with an Expected Goals For figure of 84.6, more than seven goals more than their actual total. Conversely, Liverpool are four goals better off than their Expected Goals For total of 66.1. Some of the metrics will tell you that City have the league's best attacking and defensive processes, but results (City have lost seven more league games than Liverpool) and "the sight test" will paint a different picture.
On the road in the league, City have lost at Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Wolves and Norwich, with four of those defeats coming in the last seven away matches. City have already conceded 10 more league goals than they did in the whole of last season, and six more than they did in 2017-18. City's pressing isn't as effective this season as it has been under Guardiola, and they are giving teams higher-quality chances to score.
Injuries have played their part. French centre-back Aymeric Laporte was sorely missed when he was sidelined (he has played just 10 times in the league, and Nicoals Otamendi has struggled in his stead) and while the experiment of moving Fernandinho from midfield to defence hasn't been a failure per se, his influence has been missing in midfield. Leroy Sane has missed almost the entire campaign with injury, a player who contributed 20 goals and 25 assists across the last two Premier League seasons.
Fernandinho is suspended after his dismissal against Chelsea, while Sergio Aguero is still out with a knee injury.
Klopp and company an indelible part of Anfield folklore
It says a lot about Jürgen Klopp that he refused to belittle the achievements of his time at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund by declaring his Premier League title win with Liverpool as his greatest success. A man who started his coaching career because Mainz couldn't find a suitable coach and decided to get one of their players to fulfil the role has gone on to become an icon at all three clubs he has led.
That said, his work at Anfield has been truly extraordinary. He arrived claiming he wanted to "turn doubters into believers" and he has delivered the Champions League, the Club World Cup and an end to the 30-year-wait for a league title. He has reached two other major European finals, won the UEFA Super Cup and was a whisker away from winning last season's Premier League. The former Borussia Dortmund boss has surrounded himself with people who can answer the questions he can't, has developed an excellent relationship with the club's recruitment department (who deserve immense credit) and has given his squad a mental and emotional framework which gives them every chance to succeed.
Of course, a coach can only do so much, and the players have excelled individually and collectively. Goalkeeper Alisson and centre-back Virgil van Dijk have contributed to the league's best defensive record (21 goals leaked in 31 games), full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have 20 league assists between them, skipper Jordan Henderson is a unifying force on and off the field, and the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have 40 league goals and 21 assists between them.
City too short in clash of titans
Liverpool have lost just one of their last seven meetings with City in all competitions inside 90 minutes (they lost the Community Shield on penalties), but unfortunately for them it was last season's 2-1 reverse at the Etihad, a result that ultimately cost them the title that year.
City are without key players Aguero and Fernandinho, and Liverpool fans may be licking their lips at the prospect of Salah, Mane and Firmino running at Otamendi. I'm certainly not excited about City's price of 2.0811/10 to take the win - in addition to the list of away defeats, they have also lost at home to Wolves and Manchester United in the league. Liverpool have lost just once in the PL all season, and although there's a possibility their title celebrations will have distracted them to some extent, Klopp will have refocused his charges quickly enough.
I'll back Draw and Away in the Double Chance market here at 1.910/11.
Expect goals in high-intensity clash
The second half of Manchester City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea was breathtaking in its tempo and intensity, a captivating spectacle. I can't imagine for a second that either City or Liverpool will allow themselves to slack off here. City can make a statement ahead of next season, while Liverpool can do the same, and can move step closer to the 100-point mark they crave.
There have been at least three goals in six of the clubs' last eight meetings in all competitions (all in the last two years) and five of those encounters have seen both teams find the net. I think both things will happen here - I have doubts about the City defence, but their attack is irresistible over 90 minutes. You have to go back more than eight years for Liverpool's last clean sheet at the Etihad.
I'll back a BTTS/Over 2.5 Goals double here at 1.8 on the Sportsbook.
If you want to back Over 2.5 Goals or Both Teams To Score individually, they are trading at 1.645/8 and 1.574/7 respectively on the Exchange.
Kevin Hatchard English Football 2019-20 P/L
Points Staked: 49
Points Returned: 34.72
P/L: -14.28 points
2016-19 Premier League P/L: +11.57 points
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Back Draw and Away in the Double Chance market at 1.910/11
Back BTTS/Over 2.5 Goals double at 1.84/5 on the Sportsbook