PREMIER LEAGUE

Premier League: Manchester City vs Liverpool preview

All the latest news and information as last season’s champions Manchester City host newly-crowned Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in a battle of England’s two finest sides.

Premier League: Manchester City vs Liverpool preview
OLI SCARFF AFP

Manchester City vs Liverpool: Premier League match preview

Manchester City returned to Premier League action on sparkling form, winning their first two games with an aggregate score of 8-0, but that all came crashing down against Chelsea last week as they fell to a 2-1 defeat. That loss confirmed Liverpool as Premier League champions and was City’s eighth defeat this season, the most a Pep Guardiola side has suffered in a single league campaign. Having already lost home and away to neighbours Manchester United this season City will be desperate to avoid allowing new rivals Liverpool to do the same.

Reasserting themselves as an elite side will be the aim for Guardiola’s men in the final games of a 13 month season and City are still in contention for the FA Cup and Champions League. European success is the last frontier for the Manchester City project and they play Real Madrid in the last-16 stage in early August. After Liverpool, their final five league games are all against bottom-half sides, so this is their last chance to test themselves against elite competition before facing Los Blancos.

While City have underachieved this year, Liverpool have exceeded all expectations and brought home the Premier League title in record time. Thursday’s fixture at the Etihad marks a week to the day since they were crowned champions and the Reds will be brimming with confidence.

This Liverpool side has been built on competitiveness and drive and they will be in no mood to ease off against the team that pipped them to the title last year. Having finally reached the pinnacle of English football they will want to lay down a marker against the second-best team in the country. There are also plenty of individual and collective records still to play for, not least City’s Premier League record 100-point total from two years ago. Having not played for eight days Liverpool will be refreshed, rejuvenated and keen to show their superiority.

Manchester City vs Liverpool: injuries and suspensions

In their most testing fixture before the Real Madrid game, Guardiola is expected to name a first-choice starting XI on Thursday night. However, he will be without the suspended Fernandinho and the injured Sergio Agüero, while Eric Garcia is unlikely to feature from the start following the concussion sustained against Arsenal a fortnight ago.

Leroy Sané has now agreed a deal to move to Bayern Munich in the next transfer window so is extremely unlikely to be involved against Liverpool.

Liverpool’s first choice line-up has remained largely unchanged this season and Jürgen Klopp is without any major injury concerns for their trip to Manchester. Defender Joel Matip is out for the rest of the season with a foot injury, with Joe Gomez the most likely to replace him alongside Virgil van Djik.

The experienced James Milner is still sidelined with a hamstring injury sustained during the Merseyside derby, but Xherdan Shaqiri has now returned to full training following a calf injury and may be handed a place on the bench.

Manchester City vs Liverpool: predicted line-ups

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Foden; Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

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

Manchester City vs Liverpool: what the managers said

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City):

"I don’t know [Klopp] that well but I admire him and the way that his teams play football. It is a benefit for the world, being positive to try to score a goal. This kind of manager helps a lot. He wants to win, I want to win but when it is finished the game is over."

Jürgen Klopp (Liverpool):

"We must never stop wanting it. We will stay humble and greedy and that makes us uncomfortable opponent. As long as we stay clear. Life is constantly a challenge and ours is now being a champion against teams fighting for everything. Next season we won't defend, we attack"

Manchester City vs Liverpool: prediction

The two sides that have dominated English football for the last three seasons always seem to produce exciting encounters and Thursday’s fixture should be no exception. Despite being behind closed doors, both have already shown that they are capable of scintillating performances in empty stadiums. With City looking to restore some pride and Liverpool eager to assert their dominance, we should be in for a cracking game. It will be close, but the champions may just edge it. 1-2