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English Premier League: Man City vs Liverpool

Pep Guardiola’s fantastic array of world class footballers have finally been dethroned by the freshly crowned English Premier League champions Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have morphed into a super team which surpassed the points tally of the Citizens by a massive 23-point margin after City reigned supreme as champions for back-to-back seasons and collected six other trophies in a three-year span.

It has become a highly competitive rivalry between these sides in recent seasons but there is also a great deal of respect, the City manager said, "Of course we are going to do it, we are going to do the guard of honour, of course. "Always we receive Liverpool when they come to our house in an incredible way. They cannot complain and, of course, we are going to do it because they deserve it."

However, when the whistle is blown City will be determined to crash Liverpool’s party. The hosts will be aiming to clinch the UEFA Champions League when the tournament resumes and Liverpool will be a perfect opponent to measure themselves against before taking on Real Madrid in the second-leg of their quarter-final clash.

Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore

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English Premier League 
Thursday 2 July   
Etihad Stadium  

To Win 
Man City 11/10
Draw 11/4
Liverpool 9/4

Manchester City

There’s nothing more dangerous than a quality team that has been wounded. The 2-1 defeat to Chelsea would have definitely evoked emotion on Kevin De Bruyne and company. 

Expect the Citizens to come out all guns blazing in their unique way by taking control of the ball possession to create constant waves of Sky-Blue attacks at high pace. 

De Bruyne has enjoyed a brilliant season involved in 30 goal contributions with 12 goals and 18 assists across all competitions. The Belgian talisman is so vital to the team that if he doesn’t start the match, I will put my money on a Liverpool victory.

Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson will also be very important in this encounter, using his feet to keep his team playing out from the back while under the pressure from Klopp’s “gegenpressing”. 

Guardiola will be without the suspended Fernandinho, who was shown a red card at Stamford Bridge last time out, and will be sweating on the fitness of young Spaniard Eric Garcia. 

Aymeric Laporte could be paired with John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi centrally, a sight that will leave Liverpool forwards licking their lips as a clear weakness in defence and surely will be their point of attack.

The incredible pace and power of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy is something very few elite athletes-players can compete-keep up with. Mendy will need to get over the blunder leading to a goal against Chelsea and help Walker pin Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to defend in their own half of the pitch, so that they won’t have the ability to wreak havoc on the City defence with great crosses and overlapping runs that is so important to Liverpool’s success.

De Bruyne is expected to boss the midfield alongside Rodri and David Silva. Mercurial Spanish legend Silva would love to get the win over the champions in his last match against them. 

Ilkay Gundogan is another footballing midfielder that could easily slot in and Phil Foden will also be knocking on the manager’s door after netting three goals against Arsenal and Burnley while playing just 103 minutes since the restart but missed out in the Chelsea clash. Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva will provide the pace in attack and boast 26 league goals between them.

Sergio Aguero said "everything went well" after having surgery on his injured knee and will sorely be missed. The Argentine striker’s record against Liverpool is lower compared to other opponents scoring just seven goals in 15 appearances against the Reds. 

Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus will lead the line, while wantaway German winger Leroy Sane has yet to see any playing time after Guardiola made it public knowledge that the player is looking for a move to another club. 

Jesus and Sane netted two goals each in the 5-0 demolition City inflicted over Liverpool back in 2017, so maybe that could change the manager’s mind and we can finally see Sane back in action. 

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Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker has kept 12 clean sheets in the 23 league games he’s played this season. In my opinion he deserves an increase in wages earning £90,000 a week compared to Manchester United’s David De Gea who pockets £375,000 every week. 

Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk have been the finishing touches to Klopp’s puzzle that have won the UEFA Champions League and Premier League since signing the pair two seasons ago. 

Joe Gomez missed a few games at the start of the season after fracturing his leg in December to regain his fitness and be just as important to the team effort as Van Dijk. The young Englishmen hasn’t taken many plaudits due to the number of superstars in the team but has established himself as a perfect foil to partner the influential Van Dijk.

Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were players that only Klopp believed in and his boys haven’t disappointed. The full-backs are an essential part to the identity of the team and together the duo have scored four goals and provided 22 assists in the league. When these two are in top form it is near impossible for Liverpool to fail. 

James Milner has also been a key player using his experience and versatility to fill in the ranks without weakening the quality of the team. Milner will be trying to get back into shape and won’t want to miss the opportunity to walk out to a guard of honour against his former employers with whom he lifted two Premier League titles. 

Central-defender Joel Matip is also touch and go but Liverpool have their first-choice starting eleven raring to go for this monumental occasion. The trio of captain Jordan Henderson with Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum are expected to be the hub of the team, however, energetic Guinean midfielder Naby Keita is back to full fitness again and will be perfect for this kind of opponent. If there’s a Liverpool player tasked with man-marking De Bruyne out of the match, Keita would be ideal for me.

Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will all provide options off the bench with Keita but Klopp is surely going to start his potent trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. 

Mane in particular has consistently been getting better and improving all aspects of his game. The Senegalese forward’s 15 goals and nine assists in the league make him my player of the season, but he will have to fight it out with the likes of Jamie Vardy (19), Danny Ings (18), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Salah (17) for the golden boot. 

A big performance in this match will make him an even bigger legend at Liverpool and give his agent ammunition to ask the club for an increase on his £100,000 a week contract or use as a bargaining chip when approached by other top clubs for his signature.

Probable line-ups:

Man City: 4-3-3
Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, David Silva, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus.

Liverpool: 4-3-3
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino.

Prediction: Half-Time/Full-Time - Draw/Liverpool (7/1)
De Bruyne has been in excellent form and is 26/10 to Score Anytime, while Mane is priced at 19/10. However, majority of the matches have been draws at half-time since the restart of the season and I’m going into the Half-Time/Full-Time market and selecting Draw/Liverpool at 7/1 odds. 

Written by Bryan Naicker