Who: Liverpool vs Manchester City
When: Sunday, November 10th @ 11:30am ET
Line: Liverpool +165 | Draw +265 | Manchester City +150
In the span of 24 hours this weekend, US sports fans will be treated two colossal match-ups. On Saturday, it’s a massive showdown from the two best teams in college football from college football’s best conference: Alabama vs LSU. Expect 40% of America to tune into that one.
Across the pond, the two best teams in the best domestic league in the biggest sport in the world face off: Liverpool vs Manchester City. If it pulls anything like last year’s match-up (it should draw more), expect about 40% of the adult world population or over 1 billion people to tune into that one.
Liverpool are six points clear of Manchester City going into the match. If they win, they go 9 up and put some comfortable distance between the two sides. That 9 points is even bigger considering something we’ve written and written again and now have written yet again:
This season in the Premier League, Liverpool have played and beaten or drawn:
- Leicester City
- Manchester United
Man City has played and tied:
Throwing Leicester (deservedly) into the big club popular clique, Liverpool will have gone up against all of them. A win on Sunday, and they’ll have captured 16 out of a possible 18 points from the best teams in the EPL.
That’s going to be tough for City to replicate. So while Sunday’s match won’t determine who ultimately wins the Premier League this season–it carries a ton of weight as to who eventually will.
Liverpool vs Manchester City Match Preview
Last season, Liverpool drew City 0-0 at Anfield. It was perhaps the biggest 💩 of a game either team could’ve played given the stakes. Neither team ever really opened it up. Both seemed content with a draw.
The only match Liverpool lost all of last season of course came at the Etihad. They lost it because of 11 millimeters. If you’re a genuine masochist, relive that painful 11 millimeter moment here:
That’s it. That’s how close these two teams were last season. That was the difference. Jurgen Klopp knows this. He won’t be content with a draw. Given the quality of teams City still has to face, Pep Guardiola knows he can’t afford a draw either.
So which match will this more closely resemble from last year? The one at the Etihad or Anfield?
Liverpool vs City has turned into a genuine rivalry. Pep Guardiola and City have consistently shown an inferiority complex when it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. (Speculating here) Pep knows that City’s bandwagon fans will never create the kind of atmosphere and passion that’s shown at Anfield. Additionally, City, whose owner suppresses human and women’s rights in his home country and wistfully breaks FFP regulations in England, simply bought errrrybody in sight. Liverpool used a forward-thinking analytics approach to assemble the smartest roster in Europe.
Now to be fair, City spent wisely on that billion dollar roster. And while Pep and the boys bottle up in the Champions League, they showed real resiliency and backbone in holding off Liverpool’s charge down the stretch in the EPL last season.
These teams don’t seem to particularly like each other. They know they’re the two best teams in the world (and two of the 10 best all-time). And they know what’s at stake.
Expect this to more closely resemble the Etihad match from last season.
That’s partly because the defenses are giving up more big chances
Both Liverpool and City have been vulnerable defensively this season. For City, injuries are mostly to blame. All-world center-back Aymeric Laporte is out. Left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko is out. Defensive center-mid Rodri is out. Ederson may be out. John Stones is NOT out. So yeah, the defense has issues.
As Grace Robertson points out on Statsbomb: “City are now a higher pressing side than ever, but at the same time are conceding chances of better quality than ever before, and have paid the price more than once.”
Some of that was happening before Laporte and Rodri went out. While Pep has tightened the defense up some recently, Liverpool is a different beast.
Liverpool’s defense is suffering similar issues as City, though (mostly) not just due injury concerns.
If you’ve watched every minute of every Liverpool match this season, you’re getting some queasy 2017 flashbacks. There are nervy moments and big chances conceded that simply didn’t happen last year.
A big part of that issue–from the eye test–is that Virgil van Dijk isn’t in the same form as last season. That’s understandable, as he had one of the most transforming years a center-back has ever had at a club.
But he’s a tick off this year.
There are lapses in concentration and organization that didn’t happen with the frequency as last season. VVD is the lowest statistical performer of his backline this campaign. He’s still great. He’s just not the colossus he was at this time last year. That’s in part reflected by the lack of clean sheets Liverpool is keeping. Yes, they’re winning. But they’re conceded goals they did not concede last year.
Liverpool have the same goal differential this year after 11 matches as last year (+16). And Liverpool are four points ahead of where they were at this point last season too (31 to 27). They’ve actually scored more this season compared to last at this time (25 to 21). They’ve just conceded more (9 to an absurdly low 5).
Liverpool allows the second fewest shots against them per game this season. City allow the fewest. So things aren’t so dire after all, right? For City, especially with the injuries, there is a concern. While they’ve only conceded 10 goals this season, their xGA is 12.5. Liverpool have conceded 9 to a xGA of 10.26. Liverpool have consistently out-performed their xG.
There’s the potential for a perfect storm on Sunday where City give up big chances, Liverpool converts one or two and then rolls.
So…the bottomline is: both teams will have real chances to score. It’ll come down to who is finishing better.
Then who will finish better?
The easy answer to this is Man City. Raheem Sterling looks like one of the three best forwards in the world right now. Sergio Aguero has been one of the best forwards in the world for a decade (and still is). Gabriel Jesus can score. Kevin de Bruyne can too, although he’s mostly crushing souls through his absurd xA output.
Liverpool heavily rely on Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah to carry the goal burden. Typically they’re more than enough. They may not be on Sunday.
Part of that issue could be the reliance on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to service the build-up to them. As bad as Manchester United have been this season, OGS and crew provided a sturdy template for how to stifle Liverpool’s attack. The basics of that strategy are to bottle up and disrupt TAA and Robbo as much as possible. Pep has watched the tape. Pep may try a similar approach.
To combat this, Klopp should look at inserting a wonderfully in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the line-up. While Liverpool lose a little defensively with Ox compared to Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum, he provides a legitimate scoring threat that doesn’t remotely exist in the midfield right now. Ox is playing with confidence, scoring 4 goals in his last 4 games. He could be a true difference-maker.
What are other key match-ups to watch?
While obvious, Fabinho will be critical to Liverpool’s success. His ability to disrupt City’s counters may prove the difference maker. Fabinho could really have his way this match if fellow Brazilian Fernandinho is deployed at center-back instead of defensive center-mid.
It’ll be interesting to see the proximity of Fabinho to KdB in this one. De Bruyne appears to have taken over the “Best Player in the Premier League” mantle from Eden Hazard. Sterling may be the best goal scorer, but KdB is the best player.
Otherwise, this is all about Mane, Firmino, and Salah being in sync at the same time. City’s backline is ultra vulnerable. There will be pockets of space available to exploit. Liverpool’s final product must be crisper and more clinical than it has been at times this season.
Liverpool haven’t lost a Premier League game at Anfield since April 2017. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt at home. Oddsmakers and 538 have City as the slightest of slight favorites. Despite all of the bellyaching above about how porous the defenses are, oddsmakers have under 3.5 goals at -215.
Expect VVD to step up and have a mountain of a game. Expect Liverpool to be a little wasteful in the final third. It’ll be an exhausting, physical match that ends in a 1-1 draw.
Where to bet the Premier League in the US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.