Philippe Coutinho’s departure has rocked the Reds, for despite pocketing a cool €160 million, the Reds have lost perhaps their most influential player while City have continued to dominate the English top-flight in an unforeseen manner.
However, there’s still hope for those on the Red half of Merseyside for the Sky Blues from Manchester aren’t quite invincible (yet) and the rest of the Premier League will be praying fervently that Jurgen Klopp can find a way to outsmart Pep Guardiola.
Whatever the result, Sunday’s tie at Anfield has all the makings of a classic and The Statesman has picked the five players that one has to keep an eye out for:
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Van Dijk had a Liverpool debut to remember, scoring a FA Cup winner at the Kop End in a Merseyside Derby, but Manchester City will truly put his credentials to the test come Sunday.
Liverpool may be playing at home, but City are expected to dominate and will swarm forward at every opportunity. The sooner van Dijk is able to develop a solid understanding with Joel Matip, the better.
Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have been in a mood of late and will look to rip Liverpool’s defence to shreds and the £75 million-signing will have come through a baptism of fire unscathed or risk being singed.
Let’s not forget, Dejan Lovren arrived at Anfield from Southampton for then-hefty fee on the back of solid reputation, but never quite going and one fears that if Liverpool’s latest defensive recruit is put on his back one too many times, he may not be able to truly recover.
Emre Can (Liverpool)
It’s old news that Emre Can is keen on a move away from Liverpool, but how long before the move materialises?
Whatever your opinion on the German, one thing is for certain: He won’t be lacking suitors in the summer and stellar performances in games such as these will only strengthen his case.
The winter transfer window is open and there’s a strong chance that the 23-year-old could depart within a fortnight but he’ll be focused on the ominous threat that is Manchester City at the moment.
His onerous task will be to shackle the creative talents of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, a job easier said than done, but Can’s unique combination of strength and mobility could see him stifle the Citizens midfield generals creativity.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
After missing the past two games with a groin complaint, Mohamed Salah has returned to training this week and is primed to be unleashed upon the runway leaders.
With Philippe Coutinho’s departure, can the free-scoring Salah be the next Anfield icon?
This season’s stats would suggest the answer is a resounding yes, but the Egyptian’s performance against City in the first leg left a lot to be desired.
The reigning African Footballer of the Year missed a couple of gilt-edged chances at a time when Liverpool were still in the tie and this time round the winger will look to make amends.
For despite City’s monopoly over possession, their defence is still relatively brittle and Salah could make them pay dearly whenever Liverpool break with pace on the counter.
Up against him will be makeshift fullback Fabian Delph and while City will try to prevent too many one-on-one situations, the fleet-footed Egyptian is a crafty customer and will look to stretch the Englishman every time he gets the ball.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Liverpool fans still haven’t forgiven Sterling for forcing a move to Manchester City in 2015, but even the most staunch of the Reds faithful will have to accept the fact that the 23-year-old’s decision was the right one, for him at least.
Credit goes to Pep Guardiola of course, but the Jamaican-born winger deserves his share of the plaudits for the graft he’s put in.
Sterling’s physical attributes, searing pace the obvious one, were always there but his lack of end product frustrated fans more often than not, but if there’s one winger giving Salah competition this season, it’s City’s No.7.
The atmosphere at Anfield is always special, especially for big games, and you can bet on it that Sterling will not get a warm reception.
As mentioned earlier, games like these forge reputations or shatter them.
Will Sterling rise above the vitriol or will he succumb?
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Sergio Aguero is, arguably, Manchester City’s greatest player ever. He’s their all-time top scorer and has scored their most-famous goal in Premier League history (Aguerooooooooooo!!) .
Yet, despite all the above and possession match-winning qualities like perhaps nobody else in the Sky Blues squad does, the Argentine hitman is reportedly unhappy and is assessing his future?
With Gabriel Jesus knocking on the door, it seems Aguero is no longer irreplaceable at the Etihad and against a side he’s enjoyed great success in the past, ‘Kun’ will be champing at the bit to increase his season’s tally.
Jesus’ injury has made him a confirmed starter for now and it’s not like Aguero to let an opportunity go by.
The fledgling defensive pairing of van Dijk and Matip may have promise, but are they truly ready for an Aguero special?