After the international break halted the early season momentum of everyone in the Premier League it comes with great pleasure that I can once again write another batch of top flight match previews and in terms of fixtures to restart the action there are not many bigger ones than the offering this lunchtime.
That is because we start the extended weekend’s proceedings at The Etihad as Manchester City play host to Liverpool and neither team will be wanting to drop any more points this early in the season especially with the imperious form of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in these opening three matches.
Both clubs have seven points from their first three fixtures with City dropping points to Merseyside opposition in the form of Everton while Liverpool’s blemish on their record so far was an opening weekend draw with Watford which saw six goals shared at Vicarage Road,
Before the break Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City managed to snatch all three points away at Bournemouth in somewhat dramatic circumstances, Raheem Sterling scored a 97th minute winner only to then be subsequently sent off for earning a second yellow card.
That caution came due to the fact he celebrated into the crowd as City’s relief was obvious to see, that relief turned to despair as Mike Dean decided to enforce the laws of the game to its strictest letter and therefore Sterling was shown his marching orders.
As a consequence Sterling will miss the clash against his former club due to a 1 match ban, a harsh decision but one that the England forward has little to argue about. In all fairness Mike Dean should probably have not been so pedantic but then again this is Mike Dean we are talking about.
In terms of Liverpool they are missing one of their star players but the question that has to be asked is whether or not they really need him in the starting eleven right now. Philippe Coutinho will again miss out on another Premier League fixture but on the evidence of his teammates performance against Arsenal he may well struggle to get into the first eleven.
The same can also be said for their new signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Signed in the final few days of the transfer window for £40m he is signed with the promise of being played in centre midfield so it will be interesting to see who if anyone makes way for the England international.
Liverpool’s attack line was devastating against Arsenal just under a fortnight ago as they ran out easy 4-0 winners over Arsene Wenger’s hapless Gunners outfit. The result probably did not give enough credit to Liverpool as the focus was weighted on the North Londoners’ capitulation at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all picked up a goal a piece in that victory while Daniel Sturridge also had time to come off the bench and bag a goal for himself. Add a second consecutive clean sheet to the mix and things are looking pretty as of right now.
Questions will be asked as to whether or not they have the squad depth to compete on both a league and Champions League front over the course of the whole season especially as they did not land the signing of Virgil Van Dijk after a particularly protracted transfer saga.
But the football that Liverpool have offered as of late has been entertaining, the Crystal Palace win perhaps notwithstanding and this lunchtime will be a real test of the credentials for the season. If they can claim a second major scalp in as many matches then expectations will undoubtedly be increased.
Therefore it is Pep Guardiola’s job to make sure that the Liverpool bubble is burst and strengthen his own sides start to the campaign. It is fair to say that although City have earned the same amount of points as Liverpool they have perhaps not been quite as entertaining.
With all their wealth of attacking talent that they have, they have only scored an average of 1.66 goals per game so far this season. You could label them functional but not fantastic, today though it may not necessarily be about goals but earning all three points.
And to be honest I think it will be City who will come out on top by the end of the game. As good as Liverpool were in their win over Arsenal, the poor opposition may be something of a smokescreen. I think Pep’s men will grind out a win and momentarily go above Manchester United in the table for a few hours at least. Home win.
Time for another raft of scientific weekend football polls now
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) September 8, 2017