| New Delhi
| March 18, 2017 4:08 pm
The race for the Champions League spots is heating up in the English Premier League and when third-placed Manchester City host Liverpool on Sunday, a lot will be on the line at the Etihad Stadium with the spotlight in particular on City manager Pep Guardiola.
The hawks are circling after the cash-rich club were dumped out of Europe in midweek, losing to a fired-up Monaco side and nothing but three points will do against the Reds.
It won’t be easy, however, for Liverpool are a side that deliver big performances in the big games and while goals will be guaranteed considering neither team has a half-decent defence, a result seems too close to call at this point.
City is on the verge of a crisis and it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that if Liverpool win, fans could start turning on their vaunted manager.
He spoke about the challenge of managing City this week, hinting that coaching the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona was easier since they were established clubs, but for Premier League standards, the Sky Blues are better off than most.
They have a great squad overall, with some obvious weak points but no team in modern football is perfect.
So Guardiola will have to coax the best out of Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, two big names who on several occasions have gone missing when their side needs them most.
His shambolic defence isn't going to be fixed overnight, but City will need their stars to justify their high wages and take a cue from young wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, who have arguably been the team’s bright spots this season.
City have no fresh injury concerns, with Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus on the long-term casualty list.
Ignominious cup exits coupled with a failure to sustain a proper title challenge have brought down the mood at Anfield and while recent results have been encouraging, Liverpool are under pressure to win this game as well.
Arsenal and Manchester United aren't too far behind in the league table and while the Reds have plenty of quality in their squad, a lack of an out and out goalscorer is perhaps the chief reason for their inconsistent displays.
Brilliant against their main rivals but poor against teams that shut up shop, Klopp’s team seems to have no Plan B.
Against City, however, Liverpool will happily cede the possession battle and hit the hosts on the counter with searing speed thanks to the superlative talents such as Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho.
While Mane and Coutinho keep scoring the odd goal, Firmino has been quite ineffective in the final third and that will have to change if the Reds are to win and against a City side whose poor defence rivals Liverpools!
Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino are racing to get fit in time for the trip to the Etihad and while skipper Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge are out, Dejan Lovren is fit for selection .
Super Stat: The first-ever meeting between Manchester City and Liverpool took place in 1901, a game which Liverpool won 3-2!
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