Manchester City vs Liverpool | Sunday 10th April 2022, 16:30 | Sky Sports
It’s a real feast of sport this weekend. There’s the Grand National and the Masters, but nothing quite as big as this potential Premier League title decider.
Man City and Liverpool lock horns at the Etihad just a few days after both sides earned quarter-final first-leg wins in the Champions League.
But their attention quickly returns to the prize at stake – the Premier League title. The Reds have reeled in the Sky Blues, winning their last 10 and have kept eight clean sheets in those games.
Since Liverpool started that winning sequence, City have played nine times, dropping points at Southampton and Crystal Palace. While they slumped to their third defeat of the season against Antonio Conte’s Spurs.
Pep Guardiola confirmed on Friday that he’ll be without Ruben Dias. The Portuguese defender's absence might sway a few in favour of the visitors, who have done nothing but strengthen in the last 12 months, shown by the capture of the energetic Luis Diaz.
Jurgen Klopp, however, has a fully fit squad to choose from with Fabinho expected to be fit following his clash of heads with Nicolas Otamendi on Tuesday night. But one thing that struck me from the German’s press conference was this quote:
“I’m expecting a good game. I know very often that doesn’t happen when two top teams face each other.”
Games with huge significance can often be cagey, despite what the media will do to hype it up in pre-match. So, Klopp is leaning on that to make sure that we all know about it. And while neither manager will take a pragmatic approach, there’s just that seed of doubt about how this could play out with what’s at stake.
Jurgen’s well and truly planted that seed. Even though it’s Liverpool who have the tougher run-in, a point here wouldn’t be the worst of results. There’s a lot to be said that a defeat would be catastrophic for either side’s chances of lifting the title.
So, while many will see Man City at an odds-against price at home, I’m leaning towards the draw. All things considered, Liverpool have more balance throughout their squad – the CB partnership is stronger and their front three (or five) is lethal, although that’s hard to compare without City having an out-and-out striker.
I’m not huge on historic data, but when you look at previous meetings, four of the last eight have ended level. So, with what’s at stake, there’s a chance we could see another share of the spoils.
Man City may have only drawn four times, including at Anfield in October. While Liverpool have seen six league games end level, including both games against Chelsea (3rd), plus their visit to Spurs (4th).
So, when you look at it like that, four of Liverpool’s six draws have been against top-four sides, which makes you feel this could follow that pattern. It might not be tight or cagey, but I’m not expecting this to be all-action either.
At 11/4, the draw looks like a runner. The phrase ‘fear factor’ might be used in the build-up, and while no manager or player will openly admit it, defeat would be too damaging. Both will be happy to take the point, especially Guardiola’s City, who hold a one-point advantage.
The second bet focuses on a player that leads the way in several metrics – Mohamed Salah. The Premier League top scorer has recorded 118 shots – a number no one else can match.
Liverpool’s talisman has hit 3+ shots on 23 occasions, with his numbers reading 4, 4, 1, 8, 6, 6, 7 3 & 3 in 2022. The only failure in those nine appearances was the one at Burnley.
Those figures include four against Chelsea, while he also managed four in 31 minutes against Leicester and three in 34 minutes at Arsenal.
Heading into this weekend, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal make up the top five with Liverpool. In games against those four sides, Salah has hit three or more shots in five of the six games, including three in the reverse against Guardiola’s side. The full figures are 3, 3, 4, 2, 4 & 3.
The Egyptian averages 4.2 shots per game in the top-flight and he’s landed this line in 82% of his appearances, so an odds-against price looks worth taking, even with who he’s lining up against. The slight caveat is that Klopp has been happy to take him off in recent weeks.
Now for the third angle. Anthony Taylor is in charge, and with what’s at stake, you have to expect a few cards, even if it is a tactical encounter.
Looking at City, Rodri (25), Joao Cancelo (27) and Bernardo Silva (26) are their top-three offenders in the league. And it’s the latter who interests me the most.
The midfield maestro has five cautions in the Premier League, with those coming against Arsenal (5th), Newcastle (15th), Man Utd (7th), Crystal Palace (9th) and Liverpool (2nd). So, four of those five have come against top-10 sides, including the reverse at Anfield.
When you go back into last season, you see he got carded seven times – twice against Arsenal (one EFL Cup), as well as in games v Spurs and Chelsea. It shows that he rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck in during these big games.
Paddy Power has the best price at 7/2 for the Portuguese playmaker to pick up his sixth Premier League yellow. I’m happy to take that when you put everything into the equation, with what’s at stake, the quality of the opposition and the referee.
Manchester City vs Liverpool – Draw (11/4 Bet365)
Manchester City vs Liverpool – Mohamed Salah over 2.5 shots (11/10 Bet365)
Manchester City vs Liverpool – Bernardo Silva to be carded (7/2 Paddy Power)