English Premiership

Manchester’s victory is not guaranteed

2018-01-14 06:06
Playmakers Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne have key roles to play. (Robbie Jay Barratt, AMA, Getty Images).

Johannesburg - With 18 points separating first-placed Manchester City and fourth-placed Liverpool, you would be forgiven for thinking Sunday's Premier League match between the clubs would see the Citizens arriving at Merseyside with a feeling of superiority.

Pep Guardiola’s men are miles ahead of their opponents with 20 wins and two draws in 22 matches. Manchester City might even come close to matching Arsenal’s 2003/04 run. Back then, Arsène Wenger’s men won 26 and drew 12 of the 38 games they played.

Three goals a game

Guardiola’s team is also light years ahead of the rest of the English top flight, with a an average of 70.9% total ball possession. Tottenham Hotspur trails behind with 61.6%.

City have more possession of the ball away from home than they do at the Etihad Stadium. When you also factor in City’s return of nearly three goals a game, it’s quite easy to assume the Reds will be the underdog on Sunday.

However, Jürgen Klopp has been a thorn in Guardiola’s side since their Bundesliga days at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Perhaps it is the German’s use of gegenpressing – a tireless approach to winning back immediately instead of retreating in numbers to regroup – that helps break up the Spaniard’s total possession game.

No opposition coach has beaten Guardiola more frequently in competitive games than Klopp, who shares the record of four wins with José Mourinho.

In addition, Anfield has become a fortress that City have failed to topple since 2003, when a late Nicolas Anelka brace secured the team a 2-1 win.

Since then, the visitors have endured a miserly return of five draws and 14 losses on their travels to the red half of Merseyside.

Potential to be a classic

Yet there are other sub-plots to be considered, as the encounter represents Liverpool’s first game without Philippe Coutinho, who left for Barcelona.

It could also mark the league debut of centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who was bought for £75 million (R1.3 billion).

Van Dijk is expected to strengthen a defence that has been cluttered at times.

It will be interesting to see how the ­26-year-old copes with an attack that has netted 64 goals.

The clash is finely poised on both sides and has the potential to be a classic.

The hosts will want to end City’s unbeaten run while the visitors search for their first win at Anfield in 15 years.

News for Sunday's Premier League clash between Bournemouth and Arsenal

For the home side, manager Eddie Howe will conduct late fitness tests with Josh King and Junior Stanislas, who have hamstring concerns.

Jermain Defoe and Tyrone Mings will sit this one out because of long-term injuries.

Aaron Ramsey is back in the Gunners squad, although Mesut Özil is not quite ready to play with a knock to the knee.

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Saturday, 20 January 2018
Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea, The American Express Community Stadium 14:30
Stoke City v Huddersfield Town, Bet365 Stadium 17:00
Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Everton v West Bromwich Albion, Goodison Park 17:00
Leicester City v Watford, King Power Stadium 17:00
West Ham United v AFC Bournemouth, London Stadium 17:00
Burnley v Manchester United, Turf Moor 17:00
Manchester City v Newcastle United, Etihad Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 21 January 2018
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur, St. Mary's Stadium 18:00
Monday, 22 January 2018
Swansea City v Liverpool, Liberty Stadium 22:00
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