Guardiola will need to put his game face on
Jürgen Klopp has been handed another opportunity to put Liverpool’s appetite for the big occasion on display as they travel to the Etihad Stadium today to take on a Manchester City side who will no doubt still be reeling from a shock Champions League exit.
The Reds boss has taken more points from the current Premier League top-six than any other title contender. Only his side’s tendency to capitulate to weaker opposition prevents them from applying persistent pressure to league leaders Chelsea.
Of the Premier League’s top 10, only West Brom and Stoke have conceded more goals than Liverpool, and the Kop faithful will be hoping that the return of Joël Matip’s first-choice centre-back partner Dejan Lovren will keep a misfiring Sergio Agüero from scoring. The Argentine has scored only twice in his previous 10 league outings.
Pep Guardiola’s Citizens enter the fixture at the end of a week of contrasting fortunes, with Sunday having seen them progress to the FA Cup semifinals after a win over Middlesbrough, before suffering a shocking Champions League elimination against Monaco on Thursday.
A home loss to Liverpool will see Guardiola’s side pushed down to fourth place, a final position that, should it not accompany a Cup triumph, would be regarded by the ambitious City board and fans as somewhat of a disappointment.
Team news is that City are without İlkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus, while Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson are the visitors’ most notable absentees.
At the Riverside Stadium, 19th-placed Middlesbrough will be desperate to pick up at least a point against Manchester United.
José Mourinho’s side remain in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League, but they would need to improve their performances significantly should they wish to convert their current sixth position into a Champions League spot.
The Red Devils are without Paul Pogba, captain Wayne Rooney and Daley Blind, while Anthony Martial’s likely return will bolster the visitors’ depleted attacking options.
Boro, who parted ways with manager Aitor Karanka, are likely to welcome back Calum Chambers, Daniel Ayala, George Friend, Rudy Gestede and Bernardo Espinosa.
In north London, second-placed Tottenham welcome a Southampton side whose recent away wins over Watford and Sunderland will have done wonders to lift them out of a miserable run of matches that saw them take only three points out of a possible 21.
The hosts are without the league’s top scorer Harry Kane; a loss that may not be felt as keenly as some would have expected, given the form of Son Heung-min. Left-back Danny Rose also remains sidelined, while the Saints are without Charlie Austin and Matt Targett.
HEADS UP Emre Can of Liverpool and Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City