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Meet The Opponent: Manchester City

Ahead of perhaps the biggest game in the Premier League so far, we spoke with a Manchester City fan to get their take on the title-challenging fixture. @Sammy_Goal gave us his thoughts on league leaders Liverpool visiting the Etihad on Thursday.

What are your expectations for Thursday’s match? 

It could be cagey again, like it was at Anfield. City know they need to win but they definitely can’t lose, and even Guardiola will find a balance between the two. Liverpool were inhibited at Anfield and they’ll know there’s no point losing on Thursday, so they’ll want to guard against City’s attacks perhaps more so than usual.

I think it will be a good game though, and that it will open up more than the last meeting.

“Guardiola could do something different but maybe confidence is a bit low for that”

What is your predicted Manchester City XI? 

Tricky given the full-back form and fitness but I’ll go with Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Danilo, Fernandinho, B Silva, D Silva, Sterling, Aguero, Sané.

Guardiola could do something different but maybe confidence is a bit low for that, and the stakes so high.

With Fernandinho back, is it safe to say that City will get back to their winning form? 

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That’s a big part of it. It’s not just Fernandinho of course, because when Silva and De Bruyne play then City put a lot more pressure on the opposition defence, and the wingers’ performances are generally better as they get more support. That pegs teams back.

Even so, City have given Fernandinho a lot more work to do this season compared to last – in terms of tackles and interceptions – but at least he’s been available for most of the season to put out the fires.

Without him, City don’t have a player who can break up attacks (legally or otherwise, but usually legally) like he does. So without their best attacking midfielders and Fernandinho they’ve struggled. I don’t know which way the Liverpool game will go but with him and Silva back, and De Bruyne not far off, I don’t think City will struggle like they did in December again.

“I don’t think a draw would be the end of the world for City”

Being that this is a match between two title favourites and last seasons drama between the two clubs, is there added motivation to get a positive result?

As I said before I think there are other practicalities now. A draw would be a great result for Liverpool, even though they are definitely good enough to win. I don’t think a draw would be the end of the world for City, either.

A win for either would be huge and although both managers always go for the win (opposed to somebody like Mourinho). I do think the points gap at the top alters things somehow, especially as we’ve seen at Anfield that these two teams can scale it back a bit, perhaps out of respect for each other.

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The first match at Anfield was a bit cagey and it seemed neither team wanted to make a mistake. Do you see this time around being more open?

I think this will be more open basically out of my own optimism. At some point somebody will score and the game will come alive from there, but I think the game will be cagey until that happens.

“If City lose, the league will pretty much be gone”

Do you believe that the result of this match will influence Pep to spend/not spend in January? 

It’s really hard to say. From what I hear, Guardiola really wants a left-back ASAP, but the club think it’s too expensive to sign anybody now, or at least without compromising on quality. If City lose, the league will pretty much be gone, but that could lead to a push in the Champions League. Mendy will be back by then but I think Guardiola wants a left-back so much because he has come not to trust Mendy, in terms of fitness and attitude.

“Robertson would be ideal for what Guardiola wants”

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If you could pick just one Liverpool player to join City, who would it be and why?

Good question! Robertson sticks out because we’ve just been talking about left-backs. Obviously he would be ideal for what Guardiola wants. Nobody would say no to van Dijk either but City do at least have other options at centre-back, similarly to Salah.

I don’t really see any Liverpool players as the answer to City’s Fernandinho problem, but Firmino would be a great alternative to Aguero. He’s got the work rate and intelligence and I think he’d really add to an area that’ll need strengthening soon enough. Overall though I’d probably say Robertson, given the left-back situation.

What is your combined XI for Liverpool and City? 

The Liverpool midfield works as a very functional unit no matter who plays, so every credit for that, but individually I wouldn’t pick any of them over what City have, and they obviously work brilliantly too. So with that disclaimer out of the way…

Ederson; Walker, van Dijk, Laporte, Robertson, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, David Silva, Salah, Aguero, Sané.

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