Manchester City’s record this season is ridiculous. How on earth did they drop points against Everton and Crystal Palace?
They’ve won every other league match in 2017/18, after all. They’re so far ahead of the field, they’re probably favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the boat race and the Eurovision song contest at this stage.
Despite all of that, this match is a tough one to call. City might be the dominant force in the Premier League this season, but Liverpool are the second top scorers and have the best home defensive record in the division.
That was before they added Virgil van Dijk to their back line too. Liverpool really should’ve given him the #2 shirt like his namesake in Thunderbirds. Still with me, kids?
I hope so, as I’m going to stretch this reference for all it’s worth. After all, doesn’t celebrity City fan and part time Sky pundit Noel Gallagher look like Parker?
Jurgen Klopp may have been able to say hello to van Dijk, but he’s had to wave goodbye to Philippe Coutinho, after his love for the club was tainted by Barcelona’s advances. The Reds might be tighter at the back now, but their goal threat will be diminished too.
History suggests we should expect goals in this match though. These teams lead the way when it comes to high scoring contests.
These figures are obviously partly down to these teams being capable of putting the minnows to the sword (and Liverpool being capable of conceding silly goals to the self-same minnows), but matches between these giants of the north-west almost always produce goals.
Liverpool may have won this fixture 1-0 last season thanks to an early Gini Wijnaldum goal (and the Dutch international is 25/1 to repeat the trick here), but the previous five meetings at Anfield all had at least three goals, with three of the matches seeing at least four.
Both teams have scored in ten of the last 13 meetings too, and in recent years these teams have been at the top end of that chart for the whole Premier League.
It’s records like this which mean Paddy is only offering 2/5 that both teams will score, but as it does look on the cards based on the form book, it’s worth considering.
So, who might score all of these goals then? Sergio Aguero will lead the line for City, and can be backed at 7/2 to score first, or 10/11 to net at any point. Paddy will give you your money back as a free bet if Aguero scores anytime too.
As he has scored the first goal six times in the last 25 league matches, which is more times than any other player on either side has managed, he has to be worth a pound/euro or two.
City’s all-time top scorer will also be on penalty duty, should there be one. I successfully suggested there would be one in the Merseyside derby last week, thanks to Bobby Madley frequently awarding them. The reverse is true of Andre Marriner, who is the man in the middle for this match.
Only three of the 12 current top flight refs with at least 100 games under their belt point to the spot less often, so I don’t think there’ll be a penalty on Sunday. If you disagree with me, then consider this: 1) How very dare you? 2) Have a bet on a penalty being awarded, at 11/5.
As well as derby penalties, I also suggested in this column that Kevin de Bruyne would score at Chelsea, which he duly did. The stars are aligning for the Belgian in similar fashion at the moment, as he has been taking plenty of shots lately without scoring.
De Bruyne hasn’t scored in his last four league matches (although he did grab City’s first against Bristol City last night), but has taken a total of 16 shots in those games, so his next goal probably isn’t too far away.
The Liverpool side of the scorer market is tough to predict. Coutinho is gone, and Mohamed Salah has missed the last two games through injury. Though there’s every chance that was a tactical move by Klopp to stop his top scorer getting kicked to death by Burnley and especially Everton.
How about the 8/1 on offer that big Virgil gets on the scoresheet again? He’s yet to score in the league this season, so is due a goal, but as City have conceded just one set-piece goal this season, it might not be this week.
Van Dijk has beaten the blue half of Manchester once before, in a match where Sadio Mané scored a hat-trick. The Senagalese forward is 175/1 to bag three against them again. It’s your money, but I think we can agree that won’t be happening.
With Salah not a certain inclusion at the time of writing, I’m inclined to look to Roberto Firmino. I often tip him to score at the moment, but with nine goals (and four assists, for good measure) in his last ten starts, can you blame me? He’s only scored the first goal once in the past 25 games though, so I’d look toward his anytime scorer price of 21/10.
As these two sides are the top two in the big six mini-league since the start of last season, I’m going to sit on the fence and go for a draw.
Whatever your opinion, just make sure you watch the match. I just know that something good is going to happen.
* All prices correct at time of writing.