Liverpool’s incredible unbeaten Premier League run has earned them a sound seven-point lead over second-placed Manchester City. But the contest is only in its halfway mark and the Thursday night fixture between these two contenders holds massive significance as the potential title decider. The Citizens lost to Crystal Palace and Leicester City in successive fixtures but brought themselves back on the track securing a commanding 3-1 victory away at Southampton. They must be thriving to close the gap beating the Reds at Etihad similar to what Jurgen Klopp’s juggernaut did to them last season.
Liverpool, on the other hand, put five past the Gunners on Saturday evening but must be cautious before clashing heads with Pep Guardiola’s men. They suffered a 5-0 humiliation earlier last season where Sadio Mane was controversially sent off. However, the Reds accomplished revenge by knocking them down at their own backyard in the return leg fixture of the prestigious Champions League quarterfinals. These two sides settled for a futile scoreless draw in the reverse fixture at Anfield, but the Reds, currently on the driving seat, won’t mind a similar outcome to maintain the gap at the top of the league standings.
Liverpool will continue to miss out their central defensive duo Joel Matip [Shoulder] and Joe Gomez [Ankle]. James Milner [Hamstring] failed to recover prior to the Arsenal tie but is pretty much in contention to feature against his ex-employers. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has made significant progress but is still months away from returning to action after rupturing multiple ligaments towards the closure of the previous term.
Jurgen Klopp, though preferred a 4-3-3 setup on most occasions, has switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent outings and likely to retain the same against City to have more balance in the middle of the park.
Alisson Becker, the new Liverpool ‘number 1’ has conceded two sloppy goals but kept 12 clean sheets after 20 gameweeks and would be looking to grab another one despite being challenged by the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is tipped to keep hold of his right-back slot whereas Andrew Robertson, a revelation at left-back, should operate from the opposite flank. The Reds only have a couple of senior centre-back options fit to feature. However, the duo of Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk has done enough to earn reliability in the previous fixtures. But the challenge is supposed to be much sterner this midweek and these two must deliver their best possible display to marshall the last line of defence.
Although Fabinho started against Arsenal alongside Georginio Wijnaldum as a double pivot, the Brazilian is likely to make way for skipper Jordan Henderson whose experience would be crucial to keep control of the midfield game.
Xherdan Shaqiri has been highly impressive in recent outings and should retain his place down the right flank intending to trouble youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko who is being deployed as a makeshift left-back in the absence of both Benjamin Mendy and Fabian Delph.
Roberto Firmino, the hat-trick hero versus the Gunners, is expected to operate as the ‘number 10’ and offer help deep down the midfield banking on his admirable work ethics. Sadio Mane has improved immensely after his shambles against Napoli and must keep hold of his place on the left flank to combine with Robertson.
In-form Mohamed Salah has been shifted to a ‘number 9’ role to fit into their 4-2-3-1 setup. The Egyptian should be deployed in the similar slot once more unless the gaffer tweaks his tactics and alters the formation.