Manchester City vs Liverpool Preview: Champions face leaders in a top of the table crunch game
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero looks to turn Liverpool's Dejan Lovren during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City at Anfield on October 7, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Manchester City vs Liverpool Preview: Champions face leaders in a top of the table crunch game

All eyes will be on a potentially decisive clash in the Premier League title race

David Comerford

Liverpool could take a huge step towards ending nearly 30 years of hurt by beating title rivals Manchester City in a blockbuster clash at The Etihad on Thursday night.

The Reds have a glorious chance to win the Premier League for the first time after stealing a march on their competitors in December.

Jurgen Klopp's side won all seven of their league games, while City faltered with defeats against Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester.

Liverpool now find themselves six points clear at the top, and seven ahead of City, who won the title with ease last season.

Victory for the Reds would, according to Pep Guardiola, all but extinguish City's hopes, but if the home side run out victorious, it will very much be game on.

Liverpool will make the short trip to Manchester full of confidence after tearing Arsenal apart in their final game of 2018, but spirits should also be high in the opposing camp after the Cityzens returned to winning ways against Southampton.

The latest chapter in an absorbing rivalry

There have been some classic battles between Klopp and Guardiola since the pair arrived in England, and this is perhaps their most high-stakes meeting yet.

City brushed the ten men of Liverpool aside with an emphatic 5-0 victory in September 2017, but the following January the Reds ended their unbeaten streak after scoring three in a ten-minute second-half blitz.

Two memorable games followed in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Liverpool once again proved too hot to handle at Anfield, storming to a 3-0 win, but they were made to seriously sweat in the second leg before a goal from Mohamed Salah took the wind out of City's sails.

Neutral mouths should water at the prospect of two of the world's best coaches going toe-to-toe once more.

That's even before one considers the talent on show, including two of the best goalkeepers in the world, the Premier League's standout centre-backs and Europe's most fearsome frontlines. 

October's meeting wound up a disappointing 0-0 after Riyad Mahrez skied a penalty, but this time nothing less than a win will do for City. They can be expected to come at Liverpool, invincible thus far, with everything they've got.

It truly is unmissable. 

Team news

The headline team news is that Kevin de Bruyne could start for City if he passes a late fitness test.

The talismanic Belgian has seen his absence prolonged by a succession of minor injuries, but has been training with his team-mates ahead of this crucial fixture.

Fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, however, has a knock and may miss out.

It could be a huge night for 22-year-old Oleksandr Zinchenko, set to start at left-back in the absence of the injured Benjamin Mendy and the suspended Fabian Delph.

On the Liverpool side, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain out, but former City player James Milner is back in contention after returning to training.

Elsewhere, it is clean bill of health.

Predicted line-ups

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, D. Silva, De Bruyne; Sterling, Aguero, Sane

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane