An early Sunday morning fixture at Anfield between two great sides awaited Premier League fans. Clearly, in the match of the round, Liverpool and Manchester City promised a high octane match with some of the prem’s best players.
Not only was this to be a quality match, but it would have ramifications on the early title race.
Coming into the match, both teams were in the top three, with Liverpool at the top of the league and City one point behind in second. In the previous matchday, Liverpool drew Brentford in an exciting game that ended 3-3. Meanwhile, City played Chelsea in another great game and came away with the win at Stamford Bridge.
The two sides were also coming off midweek matches in the Champions League with differing results. Liverpool absolutely crushed Porto 5-1 as they moved into the top spot of group B with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino starring. In Paris, City took on the star-studded side of PSG and generally failed to be a real threat, losing 2-0.
With the background of the match setup, it would be beneficial to take a look at the strengths of two of the top teams in the league.
As two of the best sides, it is expected that both these teams are truly elite in certain aspects.
Liverpool has by far the best offense in league with a league-high 17 goals and Salah scoring six of them. While they haven’t exceeded their expected goals of 17.9, Liverpool has 2.9 more expected goals than City in second. Further cementing their attacking prowess, the team leads in both assists per 90 and expected assist per 90.
While City has been prolific, it is their defense that is on another level as coming into this game; they had conceded one goal in league play. The partnership of Rúben Dias and Aymeric Laporte has allowed one goal, which is strikingly less than their expected goals allowed of 4. Partnering a truly elite defense with a somewhat prolific attack has allowed for City to have the second-best goal differential in the league at +11.
After looking at the background, both the previous matches and metrics, the stage was set for the game in Liverpool. In terms of lineups, there weren’t many changes for either side from their midweek games in the Champions League.
Liverpool made no changes as Trent Alexander-Arnold has yet to return from his injury, meaning James Milner would keep his place at the starting right-back position. While Milner is a fine player, it was always going to be difficult for him to keep up with the lightning-fast forwards that City would throw his way.
For City, there were two changes, with Phil Foden taking the spot of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus on for Riyad Mahrez. Jack Grealish started alongside the other two forwards as he looked to capture that form that pushed City to spend so much on bringing him to the club.
The first half went well for City as their attack looked great, but the leaky Liverpool defense was able to withstand the pressure. Foden had the best chance of the half after Bernardo Silva dribbled through a maze of Liverpool defenders to set him up in front of goal, only to have Alisson produce a world-class save. City was the better side at the half, with the players feeling unlucky not to lead at the break.
Liverpool started the second half much better with Diogo Jota being more involved, allowing the front three to be more fluid in their positioning. This would help them score the opener with Salah playing a beautiful ball to Sadio Mane, firing the ball past Ederson. City would equalize through Foden, who would finally finish a golden opportunity from Gabriel Jesus.
Salah would put Liverpool ahead after scoring what could be the goal of the season. After receiving the ball from Curtis Jones, Salah would slalom through three different City defenders looking more like a skier than a soccer player. He would then cut into the box and send another defender to the ground, allowing him to fire his shot into the goal.
Despite that effort from Salah, City would equalize yet again with Kevin De Bruyne scoring a goal from outside the box. There would be one last golden chance for Fabinho, who would have his shot cleared by Rodri. The game would end 2-2, proving to be the best match of the season so far with great goals and moments.
Liverpool’s attack looked great as the front three was able to provide goals and fluidity in the attack. The most glaring issue for Liverpool is in their defense and finding the right partner for Virgil van Dijk, as this will likely be what helps make or break their title hopes.
Despite allowing two goals, City’s defense still looked great, with the partnership of Dias and Laporte having good moments. Another thing that this game cemented was that Foden should be the starting lineup as he had the best moments in this game.
Liverpool will next play Watford in what should be a game where Liverpool are heavy favorites.
While Manchester City will play Burnley, who are currently in the relegation zone as City looks to chase Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table.
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