Liverpool face a difficult trip to Man City on Saturday evening, and we pick out three battles that could play a big part in the result.
The Reds travel to the Etihad hoping to rid themselves of that momentum-sapping 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace almost a fortnight ago.
City lead the way in the Premier League at the moment, and Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be confident of seeing off Jurgen Klopp‘s men in Manchester.
It’s difficult match to predict in many ways, with both sides a little unpredictable at times. It is City who are understandably favourites, though.
Here are three key battles that could determine who picks up all three points on the day.
Nathaniel Clyne vs. Raheem Sterling
There has been plenty made this week about Raheem Sterling’s first match against Liverpool since his controversial exit in the summer.
The 20-year-old will be desperate to prove himself against his former club, and tasked with stopping him will be Nathaniel Clyne, assuming Sterling occupies his normal left-sided role.
The England teammates will know a lot about each other’s respective styles, and it promises to be a fascinating tussle.
Sterling has had a decent start to life in Manchester, most notably scoring a hat-trick against Bournemouth, and his game looks as though it is steadily going up a gear.
In Clyne, however, the youngster will come up against one of the most defensively-sound right-backs in the business, and will do well to get the better of him.
Although Liverpool’s summer signing will test Sterling’s defensive expertise with forward bursts of his own, it is in City’s attacking third where the battle will be at its most pivotal.
Lucas Leiva vs. David Silva
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Klopp’s time as Liverpool manager so far has been the brilliant performances of Lucas Leiva.
The 28-year-old has been a revelation, covering ground, biting into tackles and using the ball intelligently, and he will have to be at his very best to stop the returning David Silva on Saturday evening.
The Spaniard is a sensational footballer who has been missed greatly by City, and on his day there is arguably not a more influential player in the Premier League.
His creativity and movement in the ‘number 10’ role can be a nightmare to mark, but in Lucas, Liverpool have one of the best defence-minded midfielders around.
His mobility can sometimes be put into question, which will test his ability to stay close to Silva, but his reading of the game is so good that it makes up for a lack of legs.
If Lucas allows Silva to run the show- Kevin De Bruyne is another who could wreak havoc off the striker if Silva isn’t fit enough to start- Liverpool could have a long 90 minutes ahead of them.
Christian Benteke vs. Vincent Kompany
Saturday pits two countrymen up against one another, in what could be a fascinating battle between a couple of the Premier League‘s most physical players.
Vincent Kompany and Christian Benteke will know all about each other from past Man City–Aston Villa showdowns, and international duty with Belgium, and the victor of their tussle could prove crucial.
Benteke’s Liverpool career has been an interesting one so far, with a mix of injuries, goals and poor performances making it difficult to work out whether he has been a success or not.
The 24-year-old is known for being a little inconsistent, but the Reds need him to be at his unstoppable best on Saturday when he leads the line.
Kompany is enjoying a fine return to form after a couple of iffy, injury-plagued seasons, and he is building a formidable centre-back partnership with the excellent Nicolas Otamendi.
The aerial battle between the City skipper and Benteke will be key, but the Liverpool man’s movement needs to improve from his dire showing against Palace, or Kompany will have things a little too easy.
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> Man City v Liverpool – Team News, Form, Odds, Opposition and TV Info