football

A Christmas Cracker: Liverpool vs. Manchester City

December 28, 2016

- Grant Whittington

Just when you think all of your presents had been unwrapped, the Premier League throw up a mouth-watering clash merely hours before we welcome 2017 into our lives. Manchester City head to Anfield with both sides looking to send out an ominous warning to their rivals as the race to be crowned Champions of England begins to bubble over.

It also throws up two distinctive managerial styles as the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp looks to impose his high-intensity, ‘heavy metal’ football on the patient possession philosophy employed by Pep Guardiola. The two bosses clashed eight times during their time in Germany with the pair splitting their head to head on four wins apiece.

This season, Liverpool have deservedly drawn plaudits for their entertaining, free-flowing brand of attacking football, but in recent weeks have shown rare signs of defensive solidarity by grinding out excellent victories on the road at Middlesborough and then in a typically feisty Merseyside derby against Ronald Koeman’s Everton.

The two clean sheets in the process will also boost a backline which had been found wanting in previous matches – most notably the spectacular capitulation at Bournemouth which saw them lose 4-3 despite holding a 3-1 lead with just 15 minutes left on the clock.

City will be boosted by the return of their talisman Sergio Aguero who missed the majority of December serving a four-match ban following his dismissal against leaders Chelsea. Like their opponents, the blue half of Manchester have resurrected their campaign with back-to-back wins following two successive defeats which saw them leak seven goals and Guardiola’s tactics come under great scrutiny.

The two-time Premier League Champions simply had to beat Watford and Arsenal to stay in touch with an irrepressible Chelsea, who have not dropped a point from the last 33 available. If history is anything to go by, then Guardiola’s men are in for a tough night. They haven’t come away from Anfield with three points since the 2002/03 season when Nicolas Anelka returned to haunt his former club with two goals late on.

Last season, Klopp inspired his team to a convincing double over their forthcoming opponents with a tremendous 4-1 at the Etihad being backed up by an emphatic 3-0 win in March. The 49-year-old has amassed an impressive record against the top five sides in England – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. In 15 encounters, Liverpool have only tasted defeat once and will be confident of coming away with a positive result heading into the new year.

A draw wouldn’t be a detrimental outcome for either side, but defeat will see the losers fall further behind Antonio Conte’s winning machine. Pep is trying to re-establish City’s superiority in the top-flight as well as transforming their riches off the pitch into dominance on the European stage.

On the other hand, Klopp’s revolution is making rapid progress as they sit in second place – already six positions higher than their disappointing 8th place finish last time out. A victory here in front of the fanatical Kop could be the catalyst for a unexpected first ever Premier League triumph.

It promises to be an enticing contest. Happy New Year.

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