Big Match Focus: Liverpool v Manchester City

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Talk of diving and tactical fouls has only added fuel to the fire as Liverpool and Manchester City face off in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Anfield.

The unbeaten league-leading Reds needed an 87th-minute header from Andy Robertson and an injury-time winner from Sadio Mane to defeat Aston Villa 2-1 last time out and preserve a six-point cushion over City.

Champions City needed to rally themselves to overcome Southampton, after which manager Pep Guardiola stoked the fires by saying of Liverpool's star forward Mane: "Sometimes he [Mane] is diving. Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent."

It was a suggestion Klopp bridled at and, although Guardiola later sought to clarify the meaning of his comments, Liverpool's German boss could not resist a cheeky jibe at past accusations his rival's side commit "tactical fouls".

It has undoubtedly added an intriguing sub-plot ahead of one of the most eagerly awaited Premier League matches in recent memory as Liverpool seek to significantly boost their bid to end a near 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

Last season, Liverpool lost just once in the league but still missed out by a solitary point to City, who it is fair to say have failed to excel when playing at Anfield.

 

PEP'S KLOPP HOODOO ENDING?

Guardiola's record would stand up against any coach he has faced, but in Klopp he undoubtedly has a genuine rival.

Since becoming Barcelona boss in 2008, Guardiola has lost more matches across all competitions against the former Borussia Dortmund coach than any other manager, with the German triumphing on seven occasions.

City's Catalan boss is unbeaten in his past three encounters with Klopp; however, never before has he gone four games without losing against him.

In the Premier League, there is no splitting the duo with Guardiola and Klopp holding two wins apiece and a couple of draws from the six times they have faced one another in the competition.

Klopp should take solace from some home comforts. Five of the seven wins he holds over Guardiola have come when his team have been at their own stadium, including three with Liverpool at Anfield.

Under Guardiola, City have failed to score in just six of 62 Premier League away games and three of those have come on Merseyside – two against Liverpool and once against Everton.

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HEAD-TO-HEAD: ALISSON V EDERSON

Alisson and Ederson are not just rivals for the gloves at international level with Brazil, they are also crucial to the way Liverpool and City play.

The Reds forked out a reported £66.8million to sign Alisson from Roma in July 2018 and that outlay was repaid during a fine Golden Glove-winning debut season that yielded 21 clean sheets and saw just 22 goals conceded.

Injury has restricted Liverpool's first-choice keeper to just four league outings this term, including the opener against Norwich when he was subbed off with a calf problem, and he has an impressive minutes-to-goals-conceded ratio of 103.

Crucial to modern-day goalkeeping is the ability to play out from the back and Alisson brings that to the Reds, boasting a passing accuracy of 83.9 per cent.

Ederson has been equally crucial to City's domestic dominance under Guardiola, winning the Premier League title in his first two campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, including a league, FA Cup and EFL Cup treble in 2018-19.

This term, he has kept five clean sheets in 11 league appearances, conceding 10 goals and possessing a save percentage of 74.4.

As expected, Ederson's passing accuracy is high – 90.1 per cent – and he will have to be typically quick with his feet against the brilliance of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

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FORM GUIDE: ANFIELD A FORTRESS FOR LIVERPOOL

Liverpool are unbeaten in 28 consecutive Premier League games, which represents the eighth best streak in the competition's history.

At Anfield, Klopp's side are on an even more impressive run having not tasted defeat on home soil in 45 league games – only Chelsea's 86-game run that ended in October 2008 can beat that.

City will have to go some to prevent Liverpool from finding the back of the net, with the Merseysiders scoring in 20 straight league matches – the last time they failed to register was a goalless draw with Everton in March.

Guardiola's side have lost two of their last seven league games, having been beaten just once in 23 prior to that, but they have won 13 of their past 15 away matches.

Liverpool only have one win from their most recent five league encounters with City – a 4-3 triumph at Anfield in January 2018 – but have not lost at home against the Citizens since May 2003.

Impressively, Liverpool have taken a league-high 10 points from losing positions already this season, winning their last two Premier League games despite conceding first – they have never achieved the feat in three straight matches in the competition.

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HISTORY SAYS...

Liverpool have a formidable home record against City, losing just one of their last 28 games at Anfield against this Sunday's visitors – the lone defeat being a 2-1 setback in May 2003.

Indeed, their most recent 16 encounters with City at Anfield have returned 11 wins and five draws.

However, Liverpool's only defeat in their past 50 Premier League games against all opposition came against Guardiola's side in January.

City should be wary of the fact Liverpool have won more Premier League games against reigning champions (21) than any other team in the competition's history, last losing a home match in such a circumstance against Manchester United in December 2007.