If a week is a long time in politics, a month is an age in football. On the evening of December 1st, Liverpool were five points behind Manchester City, and were 16 back on goal difference. The next day, Divock Origi scored a dramatic, hilarious derby winner and the picture has been shifting ever since.
The Reds could lose this match and they would still be four points ahead of the Champions. With just three matches against other members of the big six in their remaining 17 games, and with two of those at home, it’s easy to see why Paddy has Jürgen Klopp’s side as 4/7 favourites for the title.
But that will no doubt change depending on the result, and the odds suggest the home side will prevail here. City are evens to win, with the draw at 13/5 and it’s 12/5 for Liverpool to take the three points back to Merseyside. Pep Guardiola has never lost two home league games in a row, and he won’t want to start now.
It’s understandable City are favourites when the champions have won 25 of their 29 home league games since the start of last season. But they have also been giving up a lot of clear-cut chances to teams far less dangerous than Liverpool, which will give the visitors hope.
In City’s last 10 league games, they’ve allowed three clear-cut chances to Southampton, Watford, Everton and Leicester. Liverpool, by contrast, haven’t conceded that many since Chelsea had four against them at Stamford Bridge.
That’s 19 games ago in all competitions, when mid-table sides have been dishing them out to Guardiola’s guys fairly regularly.
Leaving aside their 5-0 loss in this fixture last season when Sadio Mané was sent off in the first half, Liverpool have scored in every other visit to the Etihad in the last six seasons. Plus the Reds have had chances worth at least one expected goal in nine of their 13 away league games against other top clubs since August 2016.
Both Sets of Fans Will be Celebrating at Least Once
I expect the visitors to score – so does Paddy judging by their 1/4 price to do so – but I think City will net too so let’s back ‘yes’ in the both teams to score market, at 9/20.
Both teams have found the net in 11 of Liverpool’s ‘big six’ away games in the last two and a half years, which is the most of any side, and in eight of the Citizens’ at home (which is the joint-most too). Pep’s City have only failed to score in one big home game to date. No prizes for guessing who against – Jose’s United stole a 0-0 in 2016/17. Expect both sets of fans to be celebrating at least once in this match.
But that’s not to say it will be a high scoring match either. Regular readers will know 1-1 is the most common result in league matches among the top six clubs. Sure enough, the stats predict that as the most likely outcome in this match. It’s priced at 6/1 if you agree and fancy a correct score bet.
However, I’m inclined to think there’ll be more than two goals in total. After all, these sides have scored 185 goals between them over their last 38 league matches.
But there’s also usually goals aplenty when they clash in Manchester – just one of the last seven meetings at the Etihad has seen under 2.5 goals. That was a 1-1 draw in March 2016/17, but even then the chances the sides collectively mustered were worth over five expected goals. Manchester United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal last season is the only big six clash to see more goal mouth action in the last two and a half years.
With City unlikely to play as defensively as they did in the reverse fixture at Anfield, we can expect a few goals here. Get on over 2.5, at 4/7.
Seventh Heaven for Sergio?
The favourite in the goal scorer market is Sergio Aguero, and it’s no wonder considering his record against Liverpool. His record of six goals in 13 league matches against the Reds is decent enough, until you realise it’s six in six at the Etihad, with him scoring every time. That’s one goal in each match, for the less maths savvy among you.
The Argentine scored on Sunday at Southampton, to give him five goals in his last 10 appearances for City. Aguero is available at 7/2 to open the scoring, or 5/6 to net at any time.
Raheem to Finally Get the Finger out
Liverpool fans will be wondering is if this is the match where Raheem Sterling finally comes back to hurt them.
The former Red has famously contributed the square root of sod all in goal terms in his nine appearances against them, but that run surely has to end eventually?
Sterling can be backed at 15/8 to get on the score sheet here.
For Liverpool themselves, I suggested Firmino was due a goal against Arsenal in my preview, and he duly delivered three of them. But he’s still scored fewer than he should have based on his chances in 2018/19, netted twice against City last season, and will be brimming with confidence. His odds of 11/5 to score look decent in light of those facts.
If Liverpool win, will it all be over? Ten points will be a lot to make up when you want the Champions League more than the Nazis wanted the lost Ark. But a City win would certainly keep things interesting for a while longer yet.