After falling to an eighth league defeat of the season at the hands of Chelsea last Thursday, Manchester City officially conceded their Premier League crown to Liverpool, ending a two-year period of superiority and dominance in England’s top division.
Now, the two North-West sides, which were separated by just one point last season, will go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium. After initial fears the game would have to be moved to a neutral venue, Manchester City Council’s Safety Advisory Group gave permission for the game to go ahead in Manchester.
The enquiries into how Guardiola’s side fell so far behind Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will no doubt happen in due course; but the game on Thursday should give City a chance to show off their talents and put down a marker ahead of what will hopefully be a more competitive 2020/21 campaign. A City win may also provide people with a much-needed reminder of the quality of this side following Liverpool’s triumph.
Despite having never been congratulated publicly by Liverpool for our recent Premier League successes, and the embarrassing damaging of the City team bus ahead of a Champions League quarter-final at Anfield, Guardiola has confirmed his side will do the dignified thing by giving Liverpool a guard of honour pre-match. When asked Guardiola said: “We are going to do the guard of honour of course. Of course we are going to do it because they deserve it.”
Sergio Agüero will be unable to add to his seven goal tally against Liverpool, as City’s all-time goal scorer begins his recovery after having knee surgery in Barcelona last week. Fernandinho will also be unavailable for the fixture, as he continues to serve a three-match ban after being dismissed for handball at Stamford Bridge.
John Stones, who is still yet to feature for the Blues’ since the Premier League’s resumption due to injury, could potentially play a part in the game. Eric Garcia, who returned to first team training this week having recovered from concussion, could also feature. Phil Foden could also be in line for another start after only managing to come off the bench on Sunday - having missed the trip to the capital with a knock.
Although fit, Leroy Sané is not expected to feature on Thursday, with Sam Lee of the Athletic reporting that he may not come back to the club again - with the German expected in Munich later this week after finally agreeing a long awaited transfer to Bundesliga giants. Even though Sané could potentially still play a part in the reminder of this extended campaign, it is unlikely we will see the former young player of the year in a City shirt again.
For Liverpool, former blue James Milner is unlikely to play any part in the game after suffering a hamstring injury in the Merseyside Derby. Defender Joel Matip also suffered an injury in that game and is reportedly out for the remainder of the season.
Head To Head:
Liverpool are one of a few sides who City seem unable to be able to get the better of, having not won at Anfield since 2003 and with just two wins in the past ten league matches for the Blues. City have however won the past two meetings at the Etihad, with a 5-0 thumping back in 2017 and that monumental 2-1 victory in January 2019.
It will be 185th meeting overall and 46th Premier League meeting between the North-West sides. With City having won just 48 of the past 184 games and only nine of the last 45 Premier League matches. City have lost 90 and drawn 46 of the meetings in total, having scored 240 goals and conceded 325, with an average of 3.07 goals a game.
Guardiola's side took themselves one step closer to regaining the FA Cup and completing a potential cup treble with a dominant display over Newcastle at the weekend. After an impressive return to action from the Blues, the defeat to Frank Lampard’s side, despite having been on top for large periods of the game, came as a bit of a shock to players and fans alike.
City have lost four of the 18 games they have played since the turn of the year and are currently sat in 2nd - 23 points behind Liverpool but are mightily close to securing European qualification for a 10th successive season; even if participation in next seasons competition is currently unknown with the CAS decision expected early this month.
Liverpool have remarkably only dropped points on three occasions this season, and have only lost twice in the league since the start of last season; with losses coming at the Etihad in 2019 and Watford before the league’s stoppage in late February. Although they have an impressive record in the league, overall the Red’s have only won two of the last six matches in all competitions.
Anthony Taylor will take charge of his second game at the Etihad since the return of the Premier League on Thursday night, with the Premier League and FIFA official refereeing this fixture for the second time in his career. Taylor, who took charge of his 250th top flight game when City played Arsenal two weeks ago, will be joined by Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn as linesman and Mike Dean as the fourth official.
Stuart Attwell, who dismissed Fernandinho for handball at Stamford Bridge last week will be joined by Stephen Child for VAR duties at Stockley Park. Akil Howson will also be the replacement official at the Etihad.
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