Manchester City vs Liverpool preview: Champions and leaders meet at the Etihad
Watch Man City vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League on Jan 3
Last Updated: 07/01/19 11:22am
Manager Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City have an excellent opportunity to breathe new life into their Premier League defence when they take on Liverpool at the Etihad on Thursday.
Recent losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester have left City seven points behind the league leaders, but Guardiola insists his focus has not changed.
"I have the feeling it is a big opportunity for us to reduce the gap but our focus is the same," he said. "Everybody asks what we are going to do if we lose but we are going to try to make our game and to win it.
"At the moment Liverpool are the best team in Europe for the way they play and control the details in their game. It's a good challenge for us."
City could be boosted by the return of influential Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who missed their victory over Southampton with a muscle injury, but could make his return against Jurgen Klopp's men.
"He trained today (Wednesday), but tomorrow we need another check in the morning," said Guardiola. "But he is much better."
Meanwhile, ahead of his side's trip to the Etihad, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insisted City remain the best team in the world.
The Reds go into the meeting with a seven-point lead over their title rivals at the top of the Premier League.
Klopp, though, was keen to push aside the hype, saying he saw it "as a normal game against Manchester City".
He added: "A very difficult one, one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world. We felt that plenty of times. It's a really strong football team with an outstanding manager.
"We have to be prepared as good as possible, we have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry, like in all the other games. But with the knowledge the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world. Only the points changed, not the preparation for the game."
De Bruyne is a doubt after missing Sunday's victory over Southampton with a muscle injury and will have a late fitness test after returning to training.
Ilkay Gundogan could also return, but Fabian Delph remains suspended and both Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) are long-term absentees.
For the visitors, James Milner is in contention at the Etihad. A minor muscular injury ruled Milner out of the Boxing Day win over Newcastle, but the midfielder is expected to be available on Thursday.
However, striker Dominic Solanke is struggling with a muscle problem, although he is yet to make a first-team appearance for the leaders this season.
And Sadio Mane is available for selection after the FA confirmed he would not face any action after an alleged altercation with Arsenal defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on Saturday.
- City have won just one of their last 11 meetings with Liverpool in all competitions (D3 L7), although that was a 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad in the Premier League last season
- Liverpool have only won one of their last nine league visits to the Etihad Stadium (D3 L5), winning 4-1 in Klopp's first away game against the Citizens after taking over at Anfield. They have conceded 20 goals in those nine away games (2.2 per game)
- Guardiola has lost more matches against Klopp (seven) than he has against anyone else in his managerial career, although only two of those defeats have come in home games (P6 W2 D2 L2).
- February 2016 was the last time City lost consecutive home Premier League games, losing to Leicester and Spurs; manager Pep Guardiola has never lost consecutive home league games as a manager
- Liverpool have won only five of their last 17 matches in all competitions in January (D5 L7), with the Reds losing nine of Klopp's 24 matches during the month (W8 D7)
- At the end of the year, Liverpool topped the Premier League table by seven points - no team has ever failed to win the English top-flight title with such a lead coming into the New Year
This might sound silly, but I'd be shocked if Manchester City won this game. I just can't see how they can stop Liverpool from scoring goals. As the game goes on, I just don't see how Liverpool don't go on to win it.
My only question of Liverpool would be how they play it. Do they go out and think that if they draw they've probably taken Man City out of the equation? Or do they go for the jugular and win the Premier League on Thursday night?
If Liverpool lose the game, it's majorly game on because it's about how they react after, too, and they wouldn't be invincible any more. But I can't see them not getting anything.
MERSE SAYS: 1-3 (25/1 with Sky Bet)
Watch Man City vs Liverpool live from 7pm on January 3 on Sky Sports Premier League