Saturday 31st December 17.30
This is one hell of a game to bookend one of the most ugly and traumatic years in recent memory. Long established norms and understandings have been cast aside with little or no thought to the consequences, beloved cultural icons have bit the dust at a seemingly incredible rate, Decency has packed its bags and slumped off into the night. You don’t need us to outline the myriad woes of 2016 but suffice it to say, Liverpool v Manchester City at least gives us the chance to finish on a happy high.
Check list, please
When you analyse these teams, they share many similarities. Dodgy ‘keeper(s): Check. Dodgy defence: Check. Ability to outscore opponents thus effectively negating dodgy defence: Check. World class managers: Check. Ability to frustrate and excite in equal measures: Check and check. They sit a point apart in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, both maintaining notions of keeping up with and hopefully overtaking league leaders, Chelsea.
Reading the past to define the future
In order to get a read on what might transpire here, it’s worth casting your mind back to City’s games against both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City. In both these matches, City were effectively torn apart as their opponents, in Spurs’ case, pressed high and hard and, in Leicester’s case, countered at pace against what might generously be described as a loose defensive line. Liverpool are adept at both those aspects of the game and so will press high and counter quickly at most points in the match.
Are they really defenders?!
Can City deal with that? Defensively, probably not and it is nearly certain that they will concede. However, Sergio Aguero has served his ban for scumbaggery and will delight in getting back out onto the turf. Liverpool’s central defensive pairing of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan are a very giving pair and no doubt Aguero and his cohorts will avail of this trait and help themselves to a goal or two over the 90 minutes.
Consistency as key
Looking at both teams, it seems as if Liverpool are the more settled and consistent of the two. The hosts have been managed by Jurgen Klopp for over a year now and his methods have been well drilled into the players. Pep Guardiola and City have yet to get to that point as his methods are quite radical relative to most managers and it will take time for players to adapt, should they ever. One thing is for sure, due to City’s tendency to leave massive gaps on the flanks in their forays forward and Liverpool’s inability to competently defend under pressure should be a joy to behold.
For some of the reasons outlined above in relation to relative consistency, this column reckons that the home team will do enough to account for the hosts and take all three points. It will be tough, of course, because if City click into gear, there will be little that Liverpool can do about it but it’s just that City are bound to give up more opportunities than Liverpool will and on that assumption, the hosts should outscore the visitors. The prices are tight between them but the best price for a Liverpool win, should that interest you, is 7/5 from BetFred. Mainly though, just sit back and enjoy what should be a mighty match. And a very happy new year to you all.