Without a doubt the biggest game on the Premiership table this weekend is Sunday’s matchup between Manchester City and Liverpool. Liverpool was clearly ‘looking ahead’ to this game on Tuesday when they turned in a somewhat lackluster effort against Genk in Champions League action. It all ended well as Liverpool prevailed 2-1 and that sets up this huge matchup at Afield between last season’s Premier League Champions and this season’s top of the table squad.
Manchester City wasn’t quite as fortunate in their last action as they had to settle for a draw with Atalanta at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in Milan. ‘Not as fortunate’ is becoming a refrain for Manchester City’s season–they went up 1-0 in the 7th minute on Raheem Sterling’s goal assisted by Gabriel Jesus. Jesus would go from playmaker to ‘goat’ right before halftime when he missed a penalty that would have put his side up 2-0. Instead, they went to the halftime up by a goal. Atalanta drew level in the 49th minute on Mario Pasalic’s score. City was lucky to escape with a draw–goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off in the 81st minute for a red card booking and defender Kyle Walker became goalkeeper Kyle Walker for the remainder of the contest.
From a practical standpoint, the distinction between the win and draw against Atalanta is of minimal significance. Manchester City is in complete control of Group C of Champions League play with a 3-1-0 record for 10 points. They’re five clear of Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk who will be left fighting for the remaining qualification spot. From a symbolic perspective, however, Manchester City could be feeling somewhat ‘snakebit’. The Premiership race was expected to be a reprise of last year with City and Liverpool battling down to the wire. Instead, Liverpool is at risk of running away with the crown. This has been a season where City has lost focus against substandard opponents playing to a draw at home against 12th place Tottenham Hotspur, losing at bottom of the table Norwich City and losing at home 2-0 to 15th place Wolverhampton. Overall, things look good on City’s record sheet–only 3 losses in all competitions in their last 25 games with 20 wins. Away from home they’ve lost only 6 of 25 and drawn 2 in all competitions with 17 wins. In Premier League play this year they’ve thumped most of their opponents away from home scoring 15 and conceding 5.
Liverpool has done little wrong this season–the only blemish on their record in Premier League play is a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Their only loss came at Napoli in Champions League group play. Dating back to the first of the year they’ve lost only twice in all competitions away from Anfield going 17-4-2 with both losses coming in Champions League action. At home, they’re undefeated this season in all competitions though they needed penalties to advance against Chelsea in UEFA Super Cup play and against Arsenal in League Cup play. In the Premier League, it’s been a perfect 5-0-0 scoring 14 and conceding 5.
Last year, City took 4 points from Liverpool with a win in a draw getting the victory at home and a goalless draw at Anfield. They also played a 1-1 draw in the Community Shield to open this season. A draw might be ‘best case scenario’ for Manchester City here as well but a better play is on the total where 5 of the last 7 head to head have produced 3 or more goals.