LONDON: Liverpool’s clashes with Manchester City have become the Premier League’s modern classic in the era of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, but Sunday’s clash at Anfield could already spell the end of the Reds’ title aspirations.
Both clubs have shared the supremacy of English football over the past five years, with City twice edging thrilling title races over Liverpool by a single point in 2018/19 and last season.
But a run of two wins from their opening eight Premier League games has left Liverpool 14 points behind leaders Arsenal and 13 adrift of City.
By contrast, the defending champions are averaging nearly four goals a game as Erling Haaland’s arrival has taken even a squad of seasoned winners to a new level.
Guardiola could afford the luxury of resting Haaland for a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen on Tuesday that sealed City’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare.
The Norwegian has struck 20 times in just 12 games since Liverpool opened the season with a 3-1 win over City in the Community Shield.
Guardiola’s men are unbeaten in 13 matches since with Haaland failing to score only once in his short Premier League career.
But City have only won at Anfield once since 2003 and that was in front of an empty stadium in February 2021.
“I expect them to be at the best Liverpool possible,” Kevin De Bruyne told Sky Sports.
“Obviously they lost some points but they are still Liverpool and I expect them to be good.”
There was at least some relief for Liverpool in a 7-1 demolition of Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday as Mohamed Salah came off the bench to score the fastest hat trick in the competition’s history.
“It changed the mood completely, but we all know who we are welcoming on Sunday and this will be a different game,” said Klopp after putting the Glasgow giants to the sword at Ibrox.
Newcastle celebrated a year under the Saudi ownership by thrashing Brentford 5-1 last weekend to move into the top six.
The Magpies have been beaten just once this season and a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday will be a barometer of both sides’ ambitions for the season.
Manchester United have won five of their last six league games, but a 6-3 humiliation at the hands of City in between times showed they are far from the finished article in the early months of Erik ten Hag’s reign.
A first victory at Old Trafford since 2013 would bolster belief on Tyneside that they can fast track their route into the Champions League next season, especially with another opportunity to splash their wealth in the transfer market just weeks away.
Aston Villa may be on a four-game unbeaten run, but the manner of performances in drawing against 10-man Leeds and struggling Nottingham Forest in recent weeks has jacked up the pressure on Steven Gerrard’s position.
The former Liverpool captain has been heavily backed in the transfer market, but Villa’s ambitious owners are seeing little return for their investment on the field.
Gerrard’s men are just three points above the relegation zone and face the daunting task of a Chelsea side in fine form since Graham Potter’s arrival as manager on Sunday.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Brentford vs. Brighton (1900)
Leicester vs. Crystal Palace (1130), Fulham vs. Bournemouth, Wolves vs. Nottingham Forest (both 1400), Tottenham vs. Everton (1630)
Aston Villa vs. Chelsea, Manchester United vs. Newcastle, Southampton vs. West Ham, Leeds vs. Arsenal (all 1300), Liverpool vs. Manchester City (1530)