Liverpool fans are a notoriously touchy bunch when their team is losing, and that won’t have been assuaged by a home loss to Crystal Palace. Despite dominating much of the game the Reds looked impotent and unable to put their chances away—including a dreadful miss from Benteke when it was surely easier to score. Defensive sloppiness from Moreno and Can combined with injury to Mamadou Sakho means Liverpool’s back line looks even more shaky than it did before. The Citizens for their part look classy and self-assured—they won’t fear a visit from the Merseysiders in this form. And in the background, Raheem Sterling takes the field against his former employers.
Otamendi suffered a painful start to his Manchester City career, being on the losing side in his first three games. However, since then his team have won six in eight matches in all competitions—and the Argentinian looks comfortable and assured in the centre of defence. With Liverpool struggling to put away their chances you would put good money on Otamendi helping maintain a clean sheet in this fixture. He has two MotM awards in seven appearances so far this season and looks like a savvy acquisition despite his price tag.
More and more, Coutinho is the man Liverpool rely on to score goals and produce magic. He is tied as top goalscorer with 4, an indication of how much his team have missed Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke to injury. If Liverpool can’t collectively improve then expect bigger teams to eye up their star player again this summer—and that star is Coutinho, without a doubt. The Brazilian put the finish on a clever pass from Lallana in their game against Palace and if the Reds are going to come away from the Etihad with any points Coutinho will have to be at his best.
In terms of form, Kevin De Bruyne would ordinarily get the nod for my FLIP team, but it’s impossible to overlook Raheem Sterling for this match. The English winger has been a welcome addition to this City team, stretching the field, making runs and scoring goals. After a hugely acrimonious split from Liverpool over the summer, Sterling will be desperate to prove he made the right decision by scoring against his former employers.
Jurgen Klopp needs his attacking players to start stepping up for the team—Firmino still looks like he has a lot of work to do, so Lallana could do worse than try and recapture some of his Southampton form. His assist for Liverpool’s goal last time out is a step in the right direction, but it’s difficult for him to create much when the Reds are forced to start 4th string striker Divock Origi so often.