Liverpool are gearing up to host Man City in a massive six-pointer that could go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the title race. Victory would leave the Reds with a healthy nine-point advantage as we head into mid-November.
Yet defeat would see Man City cut the gap to just three points, so they will surely come out all guns blazing at Anfield on Sunday.
The leading sports betting sites now make Liverpool the odds-on favourites to win the title, generally priced at around the 4/5 mark. Defending champions Man City are priced at 6/5 after making an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the season. They have already lost to Norwich and Wolves, and they are already playing catching with the high-flying Reds.
However, they took four points off Liverpool last season – a draw at Anfield and an agonising victory at The Etihad, courtesy of John Stones’ goal-line clearance – en route to finishing one point clear of Jurgen Klopp’s men in the most epic title race in Premier League history. That might explain why Man City have been installed as the narrow favourites to win this game.
Yes, you read that correctly. Despite leading the table by six points, remaining unbeaten all season thus far and having home advantage, Liverpool are the bookmakers’ underdogs in this game. Most bookies have the Reds at 6/4, while Liverpool are out at 17/10. Should Liverpool fans lump on Klopp’s side at such a generous price?
First you have to consider each team’s motivations. They will certainly both be desperate to win, yet a draw would suit Liverpool better. It would preserve their six-point lead and maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign, stretching it to 12 games. The Reds have excelled at grinding out victories over smaller clubs this season, only dropping two points to Man Utd in the entire campaign so far, and they are likely to continue doing so.
On the other hand, Man City have proven themselves to be vulnerable when facing middling opposition. Their 3-2 defeat to Norwich was the stuff of nightmares for Guardiola, and they can have no complaints about the nature of their defeat to Wolves, while they also dropped points against a Spurs team languishing in the bottom half of the table.
Liverpool might feel that if they can hold Man City to draws they can simply tear apart the rest of the division and clinch their first title in decades. Yet Man City – who are liable to suffer more surprise defeats over the course of the campaign, particularly when considering their shortage of staff at centre-back – will be forced to come out and attack at Anfield as they desperately try to cut Liverpool’s title lead. That extra motivation to win may have factored into the bookmakers’ reckonings.
But that could prove to be dangerous for Guardiola’s side. Liverpool break at blistering speed and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have the quality to punish Man City’s defensive shortcomings. If Liverpool can maintain parity in the midfield battle – and that is a big if when coming up against Kevin De Bruyne – then they should win this game. They are a more solid team defensively, and just as dynamic in attack as Man City.
Lots of Liverpool fans are likely to back their team at such a high price. Another option might simply be to go for both teams to score and over 2.5 goals, as this is sure to be a classic encounter. It finished 0-0 at Anfield last season when these teams met, before that 2-1 reverse at The Etihad, but Man City look a lot sharper going forwards and a lot poorer at the back this term, so that could result in a more open and entertaining contest.
Reds fans will just have to hope Klopp has a cunning plan to deal with De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling does not come back to haunt Anfield and Salah and Mané receive strong service throughout the game. This team thumped Barcelona 4-0 here last season, and their record at Anfield is impeccable, so they have nothing to fear from the Premier League champions. Victory for Liverpool would land a psychological blow in the title race, so it is time for the Anfield faithful to roar their heroes onto greatness once again.