Manchester City against Liverpool was one of the best matches of last season. Both teams had chances to win, and should’ve scored more goals than they did.
First James Milner took out Raheem Sterling on the goal line, and got away with it. Then Bobby Firmino was celebrating assisting a goal before he remembered Adam Lallana’s hot streak had ended three months earlier.
Both teams are in decent form in the early stages of this season, so this match could be just as entertaining.
Liverpool are having shots on target for fun. Mohamed Salah has had the most in the league this season, with eight, and Sadio Mané is only one further back. Both have tested opposition goalkeepers more than the Reds’ Mersey rivals Everton have.
Shots on target in the PL this season:
8 Mohamed Salah
7 Sadio Mane
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) August 28, 2017
Still, Toffees fans are very understanding about it. Believe me.
“When’s the parade?” they ask.
When I get an original response from an Evertonian, probably. Plus in fairness Everton have had to play Chelsea and City in their last two matches, whereas the Reds have played dreadful teams like Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
Anyway, throw in Firmino’s four on-target attempts and Liverpool’s first choice front three have had more shots on target than City as a whole have (19 vs. 18).
Perhaps surprisingly, Klopp’s men have conceded fewer shots on target too: five vs. seven.
Expect goals in this one, and a close game. The two teams have virtually identical shot records so far this season. City are 52 for and 22 against, Liverpool are 55 and 21. They were within nine shots of each other at both ends of the pitch last season too.
The Reds have a remarkable shots on target record of 23-1 at home this season, but this match is on enemy turf. We saw at Watford on the opening weekend that Liverpool still have something of a soft centre if you get at them. They have been prone to collapsing on the road for years, and it’s an issue Jürgen Klopp has yet to fully resolve.
Not that pummelling sides with set pieces and crosses is a strength of the home team here. They were a shade below league average for scoring both set piece goals and headers last season. City will need to break down Liverpool via their more favoured methods.
Guardiola’s team have also had to score in the last ten minutes of both of their previous games to take points. Only Arsenal, Everton (both 18) and Chelsea (17) scored more goals after the 80th minute than City did last season too (14) so if Liverpool do get their noses in front they’ll need to defend well to the bitter end.
This match should be interesting as it throws up a clash of styles.
City have completed the most final third passes per shot in the box in the Premier League this season. This will be in part as both Everton and Bournemouth have had something to defend in two of the Citizens’ matches so far.
But Guardiola’s team love to dominate the ball regardless; they had the highest possession average in the top flight last season, and only Arsenal completed more final third passes.
The Reds are far more direct than their hosts. Not in a Tony Pulis-style hoofball way; well, not since the ill-fated days of Roy Hodgson’s reign of terror, at least. Nope, Jürgen’s boys cut through the opposition with rapier precision, and at devastating speed.
Apparently they have scored four of the 20 fastest open play goals in the Premier League so far this season. City had better keep an eye on Liverpool’s speedsters.
Although last season’s meeting at the Etihad was a draw, City were thoroughly embarrassed when the teams met in Manchester in 2015/16. Yep, they lost to a team featuring a centre-back partnership of Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel. Hell, the latter even scored to put the cherry on a 4-1 win. Pep’s team are made of far sterner stuff than Pelligrini’s lot though.
It won’t be anywhere near as easy for Liverpool this time, even if they will likely aim to play the same way.
Both teams will miss Raheem Sterling. For City, he has scored two of their four league goals so far, including the equaliser with Everton and the late winner at Bournemouth. Meanwhile Liverpool fans will miss their pantomime villain in this fixture.
Or will it now be Philippe Coutinho? We’ll have to wait and see, but his unnaturally white teeth were on display as he beamed through training this week. He certainly didn’t look like he had a face full of sadness, or whatever it was Neymar said about him recently.
Liverpool lead the way in the Premier League for matches where both teams scored last season. It happened in 24 Reds’ matches, and only one fewer times for City. It has also happened the last five times these teams have met in Manchester. ‘Both Teams To Score’ is available at 4/9 and based on history at least, it looks to be nailed on.
Home advantage should see City take the points but the Reds have enough about them to create some decent opportunities. An entertaining start to the Premier League weekend looks a certainty.