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Back Under 2.5 goals when Liverpool take on Manchester City this weekend. There will be no shortage of attacking quality on display at Anfield, but the dynamics of the fixture could produce a low-scoring encounter.
Liverpool sit top of the Premier League table ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster between the two most recent champions of England. Jurgen Klopp’s side were not particularly active in the transfer window in the summer, limiting their acquisitions to that of RB Leipzig center-back Ibrahima Konate. Questions were raised over whether Liverpool would be left behind by those who had spent more in the market, but it has not turned out that way so far. In fact, Liverpool’s coherence and continuity has worked to their advantage in the first few weeks of the 2021/22 campaign.
That is not to say Liverpool have been perfect so far. They looked short of attacking ideas when tasked with breaking down the 10 men of Chelsea in a 1-1 draw in August. Last weekend their defense was undone by Brentford’s approach of hitting long balls towards a pair of strikers and sending crosses into the box. Liverpool went 2-1 and 3-2 up in west London, yet they were twice pegged back and ultimately dropped two points in a 3-3 draw.
Overall, though, the picture is positive – particularly as the Reds responded to that disappointment at Brentford by thrashing Porto 5-1 in the Champions League. Liverpool’s attack is arguably stronger than it has ever been in the Klopp era, with Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino providing two different options through the middle. Liverpool are no longer so reliant on just three players in forwarding areas, although it remains the case that a serious injury to Mohamed Salah would seriously derail their ambitions.
At the other end of the field, the return to fitness of Virgil van Dijk makes Liverpool a much more convincing defensive unit. Brentford did manage to unsettle them last weekend, but the Reds still had enough chances to have won that match. Moreover, they have already kept clean sheets against Norwich City, Burnley, Leeds United and Crystal Palace this term.
In terms of fixtures, this must rank as one of the toughest weeks Pep Guardiola has had in management. It began with a trip to Stamford Bridge which should have been much tougher than Manchester City made it look. The Premier League champions were magnificent last Saturday. They smothered Chelsea with their coordinated pressing approach and could easily have won by a wider margin than 1-0.
Their performance was not quite as good against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, but City can count themselves unfortunate to have lost 2-0 on Tuesday. They were the better team for most of the match at the Parc des Princes, and dominated proceedings after going a goal down early on. Yet a moment of magic from Lionel Messi put the game beyond City, who were left to rue their lack of decisiveness in and around the opposition penalty area.
Next up is Sunday’s trip to Anfield, when Manchester City will play another of the world’s best teams. They have been involved in the same number of games as Liverpool over the last eight days, but it would not be a surprise if City lacked some of their usual sharpness at Anfield given the difficulty of their recent fixtures. Having said that Guardiola has a deep squad at his disposal and we will see him make the changes he feels are necessary after the exertions of the last few days.
There will be no shortage of quality attacking players on the pitch on Sunday, yet that does not necessarily mean we will be in for a goal-fest. Klopp and Guardiola are attack-minded managers who encourage their teams to be proactive wherever possible. City will probably have more of the ball – they almost always do, after all – but Liverpool will not simply pack men behind the ball and await their fate. Even so, there is reason to believe this will be a relatively low-scoring affair.
Manchester City won 4-1 at Anfield last season, but the Reds were going through a sticky patch in the first few months of 2021. Guardiola’s side will certainly be in for a stiffer test this weekend, and we could see them try to use possession as a defensive tactic. By keeping the ball away from Liverpool as much as possible, they can restrict the opportunities available to the likes of Jota, Salah, and Sadio Mane.
This fixture has produced some classics in recent years, but three of the last seven meetings between these two sides in all competitions have featured two goals or fewer. Both managers might privately settle for a point against one of their main title rivals, and that could result in a game full of quality and intensity but relatively low on clear-cut chances. A 1-1 draw would not be a surprise, but the safer bet is under 2.5 goals.
|Liverpool vs Manchester City Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Manchester City|
|Location||Anfield, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Sunday, 3 October 2021, 11.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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