Liverpool face must-win City test

Afp, London

6 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated the Premier League over the past four seasons but a sizeable gap has opened up between the leaders and the champions ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday.

City are seven points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool, with a game in hand, and could kill off any hopes of a revival for Jurgen Klopp's men with a first victory at Anfield for 18 years.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham have been cut adrift and look destined for a return to the Championship.

But struggles for Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal have opened up the race for a Champions League place, with a host of other contenders aiming for a top-four finish.

Despite the vast sums invested and multiple trophies won since Shiekh Mansour's takeover 13 years ago, Anfield has remained an unassailable fortress for the men in blue with City's last victory there coming in 2003.

However, Liverpool's invincibility at home has crumbled in recent weeks in front of empty stands.

After a club-record 68-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Anfield, the Reds have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Burnley and Brighton.

Liverpool have not won any of their past four home games -- and have not found the net there since late December.

Klopp admitted his side was suffering from mental and physical fatigue as an injury crisis in defence continues to have an impact on the rest of the team, with midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson forced into deputising at centre-back.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Sadio Mane all missed the Brighton defeat on Wednesday but could return for the daunting task of halting City's 13-game winning run in all competitions.

Despite the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, City have found the kind of form that enabled them to pip Liverpool to the title by a single point in the 2018/19 season.

Pep Guardiola's men have conceded just one goal in winning their past nine league games to storm three points clear at the top with a game in hand over second-placed Manchester United.

“At the end the aim is to be champion," said Guardiola, looking ahead after easing past Burnley on Wednesday. "It is the same (three) points, but against a contender.”