Can Liverpool end Manchester City's unbeaten record? Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson provides a tip.
"Jurgen Klopp’s midfield options are more limited, but in truth this wouldn’t have been a game that suited Coutinho in midfield"
Liverpool v Man City
Sunday 16:00, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Liverpool [3.2], Man City [2.4], The Draw [3.8].
Liverpool to continue fine record against top sides?
Liverpool have the best 'top six' record since Jurgen Klopp took charge of them in 2015 - and therefore this might be Manchester City's toughest test between now and the end of the campaign.
City absolutely thrashed Liverpool in the reverse fixture, a crushing 5-0 defeat - but the game was heavily dictated by the early red card shown to Sadio Mane. Liverpool had actually started that contest very strongly, and will hope to dominate the opening stages again here, pressing City back into their own half. Even relative minnows like Crystal Palace and Bristol City have had relative success against City by pressing high rather than sitting off, and few sides play in that style as effectively as Liverpool.
With Coutinho now in Barcelona, Jurgen Klopp's midfield options are more limited, but in truth this wouldn't have been a game that suited Coutinho in the centre of the pitch - the primary job for Liverpool's midfield trio will be about stopping Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
Liverpool likely to press
Therefore, expect a physical and hard-working triangle with Emre Can likely to sit deep, James Milner to play right up against Silva, and Georginio Wijnaldum to occupy De Bruyne. It's not the most creative midfield around - Adam Lallana looks some way short of full fitness - but it might be perfect for blunting City's passing in midfield. Liverpool will look to press Fernandinho when they lose the ball, but when City enjoy sustained spells of possession, centre-forward Roberto Firmino will probably drop onto him, providing Liverpool with a numerical advantage in that central midfield zone.
At the back, Virgil van Dijk will be handed his first real test in a Liverpool shirt against Sergio Aguero. Although he capped his debut with a headed winner in the FA Cup against Everton, the Dutchman did look somewhat rusty and Aguero will look to test his speed with runs into that channel. Joel Matip is likely to continue alongside him.
The zones Klopp will be worried about are out wide. Both Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have performed well this season, but tracking the acceleration of Leroy Sane is very difficult, especially when De Bruyne plays his arced balls into the channel. Gomez will probably get the nod, and must be wary of getting dragged out too wide - Sane's speed can be lethal.
On the other flank, Andrew Robertson is likely to continue after a fine showing against Everton. He'll be up against Raheem Sterling, who will be keen to put on a show back at Anfield. Many of Sterling's goals have been scored from close-range, and therefore Robertson will need to follow him inside and provide some last-ditch defensive contributions when required.
That said, the threat of Kyle Walker on the overlap shouldn't be underestimated - his attacking has allowed Sterling inside. He'll also be up against the pace of Sadio Mane, but should have the speed to cope.
Liverpool's most promising zone is clearly Mohamed Salah, their best player, against City's left-back - probably Fabian Delph, who has adjusted reasonably well to that zone, but clearly isn't a natural. It's difficult to see who Delph will receive support from in midfield, so Nicolas Otamendi might have to get into a good covering position.
Firmino might not be a true centre-forward but he's increasingly finding the net from centre-forward positions in recent weeks. His movement is excellent, and he might cause John Stones problems - the defender has made two mistakes in his last two games. City's most important player in a defensive sense, though, might be Ederson - sweeping a long way from his goal, and possibly intercepting balls intended for Salah and Mane.
Despite City's unbeaten league record, I fancy Liverpool at the prices on offer. Their natural style is perfect for blunting City's play, they've on a long unbeaten run themselves and they've had over a week to prepare physically and tactically. It'll be a long time before you can back Liverpool at [3.2] to win a league game at Anfield again - take it while you can.
The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson
This is a huge game at the top of the league as Liverpool take on undefeated Manchester City and of course they will be without the services of Philippe Coutinho. Liverpool will be glad the Coutinho saga is behind them and they have been going well recently, winning four straight in all competitions. They will welcome City with plenty of confidence and belief.
City continued their incredible run at home against Watford last time out and maintained their 15 point gap at the top. Given their position in the league, a draw wouldn’t be a bad result, but I just think their confidence is that high that anything less than a win would be disappointing and defending their unbeaten run will give them the incentive they need.
In the match odds market I have Liverpool as a little bit of value, but perhaps not enough to get excited about - they are currently trading at [3.2] where I was expecting [3.0]. As a result Man City are at [2.36] and I had them around [2.5] on my tissue prices. The draw could be a player here, as ultimately it’s a result I think both would accept but I also can’t see this as low-scoring game, the market backs that up with Over 2.5 goals trading at short odds-on.
This has the potential to be one of the most entertaining matches of the season and will be much closer than City’s 5-0 romp back in September. To start with I will be backing 2-2 @ [13.0] in the correct score market if the goals come early there should be an opportunity to at least trade out for a risk free bet. However, if the goals don’t come early then Over 3.5 goals will start to drift and I will have a back bet waiting in-play at [3.0] should it reach that point.