It was threatening to be such a perfect matchup. While Manchester City’s form is obvious for all to see, Liverpool’s blitz of goals and good results has seen them creep ahead of even Chelsea in the form table, second only to the runaway league leaders in sky-blue. The rematch of Merseyside red vs Manchester blue was going to be another critical litmus test for the Citizens to manage. Yes, Pep had managed a 5-0 win against the Reds earlier in the season, but that was influenced far too much by that red card. This matchup felt so different.

And then Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool’s most important player after Mohamed Salah (and that could be argued too) decided his itch for Catalan air needed to be scratched. It would end up that the Brazilian maestro signed off in the 2-1 win over Leicester, not to be seen again in a Liverpool shirt. In the league, 7 goals, 6 assists. But more than the numbers, there’s so much more to what Coutinho does. His ability to open defences, turn quickly to face goal, carry the ball in midfield (there’s a surprising lack of players in Liverpool’s midfield who can do the same).

Liverpool vs Manchester City Prediction

The English Premier League record departure of Coutinho to Barcelona appears unnecessary (Coutinho will be cup-tied for the Champions League, and the Catalan giants seem to running away with La Liga with an 11 point lead already on 2nd placed Atletico), but it nonetheless adds mixed feelings to the possible clash we all hoped to see when Manchester City visit Liverpool at Anfield on the 14th January – previewed below.

Liverpool: The Waiting Game

There’s much to be said of Liverpool’s patience. Earlier in the month, the Reds confirmed the record signing of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton, said to have been on the Anfield radar since the summer transfer window. This seemed a priceless moment of victory off the pitch, one where Liverpool finally seemed to be addressing critical weaknesses undermining their ability to hold match results, and reduce the pressure on their illustrious attack. Coutinho’s departure took some shine off this, and once again concerns have been raised about the way the club conducts its transfer business.

The results feel like they’ve started to change colour too. December was a massive improvement on the whole for Jurgen Klopp, who seemed to show tangible effort to rotate his squad more efficiently, a response to related criticisms of the failure to do so in the two seasons that passed before 2017/18. Between the wins over Leicester and Burnley, Liverpool had lost Coutinho (behind the scenes) and talisman Salah to injury, with star forward Sadio Mane struggling for the usual high standard of form. Liverpool face a waiting game to find out if the Egyptian will make the fitness deadline for the game against Man City, and equally, their fans will be waiting to see if a Coutinho replacement could be sourced before kick off.

Manchester City: The Invincibles part 2?

Arsenal’s much celebrated Invincibles from 2003/04 remain so far, the only side to never lose a league game in an entire English Premier League campaign. In the wake of Man City’s record breaking season, it is this particular record that the match against Liverpool was going to put to the test. Assuming no slip ups against the weaker sides in the division, it’s reasonable to assume Man City would be more likely to lose to one of their larger, more celebrated rivals. They’ll still have to travel to the Emirates (ironically)) and Wembley, but this match seemed a likely place where defeat could finally be tasted in league competition.

Instead, even with a tepid draw away to Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve to take some colour off the record, Man City remain well on course to achieve the grand task of redefining the best league campaign in history. Their lead has stretched to 15 points from 2nd place, and the goals continue to rain in. Ironically, former Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling currently tops the league scoring chart with 14 goals, with star striker Sergio Aguero narrowly behind with 13. A key distraction for the Citizens ahead of the Liverpool match will be the first leg of the League Cup semifinal at home to Bristol City, but it’s unlikely that Guardiola wouldn’t risk a fair degree of rotation to protect his first choice players for the clash at Anfield, while still producing a winning performance. 

By the Numbers

In Head to Head respects, the numbers are intriguing. On the whole, Liverpool appear to have the advantage in the record overall and at Anfield.

Last 5 matches, all competitions:       Liverpool 2 Wins, Man City 2 Wins (one on penalties)

September ‘17 League Etihad Man City 5 – 0 Liverpool
March ‘17 League Etihad Man City 1 – 1 Liverpool
December ‘16 League Anfield Liverpool 1 – 0 Man City
March ‘16 League Anfield Liverpool 3 – 0 Man City
February ‘16 League Cup final Wembley Liverpool 1 – 1p Man City


Last 5 matches at Anfield:                  Liverpool 4 Wins

December ‘16 League Anfield Liverpool 1 – 0 Man City
March ‘16 League Anfield Liverpool 3 – 0 Man City
March ‘15 League Anfield Liverpool 2 – 1 Man City
April ‘14 League Anfield Liverpool 3 – 2 Man City
August ‘12 League Anfield Liverpool 2 – 2 Man City


Both sides enter the match off a streak of unbeaten form, with Liverpool’s 13 league matches with defeat only surpassed by the unblemished record from Man City. Both sides top the table in respect of shots per game (18), so it will be intriguing to see if the shot volume diminishes considerably based on a healthy respect for each other. Man City also have the top 3 players in the league in respect of assists, being De Bruyne (9), Sane (9) and Silva (8). Liverpool’s games typically involve goals in all respects given the standing concerns with their defence, with only 4 clean sheets and an average of 3.4 goals in their last 10 league matches. Over the last 5 games though, this has increased to 4.2 goals per game.

A key statistic to examine for both these sides is the importance of the score at halftime, especially Liverpool, who have only won one of the 12 games where they’ve not been in the lead going into the halftime team talk:

League matches Conceded first Scored first Losing at halftime Winning at halftime
Liverpool 22 1W, 2D, 1L 11W, 5D 1W, 1D, 2L 8W, 2D
Liverpool at Home 11 1W 5W, 3D 1W 3W, 1D
Man City 22 2W, 1D 18W 2W, 1D 13W
Man City Away 11 1W, 1D 9W 1W, 1D 8W


Man City’s record is spotless, so it’s largely difficult to gain insight to any weakness from their record, but it is at least slightly interesting to see that the first goal is more indicative of a Man City win (18 wins out of 18 matches when they score the first goal), whereas Liverpool are more likely to win when they’re in the lead at halftime (8  wins out of 10 matches) as opposed to when they score first (11 wins from 16 matches).

What makes this analysis more compelling is when examining this at Anfield, where oddly, Liverpool’s points per game is only 2.09 per game (5th best in the league). Their home record is better than their away record, and they’re the only side other than Man City to remain unbeaten at home, but it is worrying for Reds that their ability to convert matches at home into wins isn’t better than it has been.

Tactics Board

Liverpool have many reasons to be highly positive for their chances in this match. On paper, most wouldn’t expect them to win, so in fairness, they’d be forgiven for a heroic defeat, if not for the substantial optimism about the team’s form in recent weeks. Salah’s fitness is a massive deciding factor in Liverpool’s likely threat, particularly given that of all the positions on the field where Guardiola appears unsettled, it is the left back role that largely appears somewhat least settled. In the last 3 games, Zinchenko, Delph and Danilo, have all filled in the role, and while the latter seems most likely to start against Liverpool, he’s also far better on the opposite fullback.

Then there is the absence of Coutinho, whose ability from set-pieces, especially corners, will be missed. Van Dijk offers Liverpool some ability from direct free kicks, but nowhere near Coutinho’s standard. The midfield itself represents a massive condundrum to solve. Within captain Jordan Henderson still nursing a hamstring injury, it’s reasonable to expect Emre Can, James Milner in midfield for the Reds, with Klopp having to make a careful decision between the rust of Adam Lallana (fresh from recent injury recovery) or the industry of Georginio Wijnaldum. Either way, none of those names replace the through balls, creativity and attacking impetus of Coutinho, which will make attacking build up rather complicated for the hosts.

Man City, meanwhile, have no inherent issues other than the rotational headaches that Guardiola seems to face on a weekly basis. Some curious numbers of interest – top scorer Raheem Sterling is yet to open his account against his former employers, but with 5 goals in as many of the last league games, the forward could well be counted to finally break that streak. His fellow goal machine Sergio Aguero has an equally odd record against Liverpool, where he’s yet to score at Anfield in his career (in contrast, he’s found the net 6 times against the Reds in the Etihad).

Betting odds

View the lastest EPL Soccer Betting Odds

Expected result

History is with Liverpool in this fixture, there’s no dispute of that. Anfield is not a place which any version of Manchester City in recent years has enjoyed visiting. Liverpool’s home form, while producing less wins than would be preferred is still indicative of a team that makes itself tough to beat. New signing Virgil Van Dijk made a solid display of his defensive duties in his debut against Everton in the FA Cup, and there’s his excellent match winner as well to indicate that his presence may just boost the narrative of the Reds remaining hard to beat at their home ground.

But then consider the arguments stacking against Liverpool. Mixed form for Mane and Firmino. Top scorer Salah still a doubt for the match, let alone full match fitness to make Man City worry too much about his presence. And the loss of Coutinho, who may not have been missed in games against far less illustrious opponents like Burnley and Everton recently, but will certainly have made a difference against the league leaders.

A score draw is a logical result; especially if Liverpool score first or enter the half in the lead. But it’s far more likely that even despite the forced rotation of the midweek League Cup semifinal first leg against Bristol City, Man City will arrive at Liverpool with a strong side ready to continue their record breaking season charge, perhaps with Sterling and Aguero having finally broken their scoring duck against the Reds.


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