In pictures: Porto v Liverpool
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Liverpool face Manchester City in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash this Sunday (4.30pm). The Reds can move four points clear of the champions with victory while the Citizens can leapfrog the Reds but may still not enjoy sole control of the league’s summit with the three points unless their rivals slip up.
City made a statement last weekend by comprehensively defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge though fell to defeat in the Champions League away at Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain.
By contrast, Liverpool were held to a draw by Brentford at the weekend despite twice leading but then bounced back in Europe to hammer Porto 5-1 in Portugal.
Jurgen Klopp and co. go looking for revenge against City after they suffered their first Anfield defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side since 2003 last season with Alisson making two horrible mistakes.
And in the Merseyside club’s thrashing of Porto, Klopp appeared to give away as much as half of his starting line-up for the visit of the Citizens.
Liverpool were 3-0 up inside an hour of play after which the German manager made a triple substitution that hinted at three players who will start against City.
In truth, none of them will be shocks. Mohamed Salah scored twice in Portugal and while he will have been keen to net a hat-trick, he will be well aware this weekend’s heavyweight encounter is the priority.
As such the Egyptian was hauled off for Roberto Firmino, who came on to get a brace himself courtesy of some dreadful goalkeeping from Diego Costa.
Sadio Mane scored the opening goal at the Estadio do Dragao, where he has five strikes in his past three visits since 2018, and came off for Takumi Minamino at the same time Salah was taken off.
Both of those would have been expected to play at City even had they played the full 90 minutes in Europe and it is an added bonus for Klopp that they were able to come off early.
Similarly, James Milner once again stood in for Trent Alexander-Arnold – absent with a muscle injury – in defence and was replaced by Joe Gomez with 24 minutes left to play.
That surely indicates that Milner will be trusted to play at right-back once more against City, where he will be tasked with keeping £100million man Jack Grealish quiet.
Captain Jordan Henderson was another to be taken off against Porto on the 73rd minute indicating, like Milner, Salah and Mane, he was being kept as fresh as possible for City and will start this weekend.
But in addition to taking Henderson, Milner, Salah and Mane off at Porto, Klopp seems to have indicated he will start Diogo Jota through the middle rather than Firmino.
Though the Portuguese only came off with two minutes left, with Divock Origi replacing him, Klopp said post-match: “I am happy that Diogo Jota didn’t score, he keeps the goals for games we need them. We did not need his goals in the end tonight.”
Those comments hint that while Firmino came on to score twice in Europe, Jota will keep his starting spot as the more clinical of the two.
City will certainly be planning for that, unless Klopp decides to bring Firmino back in to complete a front three Pep Guardiola once said of: “They scare me. They’re dangerous, I mean it.”
With Alisson a guaranteed starter whenever fit, certainly for matches of this magnitude, City will be confident of knowing at least six of Liverpool’s 11 for Sunday.
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And the rest of the gaps should be easy enough to fill. The same back-line that played against Porto – with Andy Robertson at left-back and Virgil van Dijk partnering Joel Matip at centre-half – is likely to go head-to-head with City’s all-star attack.
And in midfield, though Fabinho played for the full 90, the Brazilian is almost guaranteed to take up the holding role. The final midfield position is less secure with Milner at right-back and Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott injured.
Curtis Jones, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the three main options and after he scored at Brentford and was then involved in four of five goals at Porto, a good bet is that Jones completes the midfield and the starting line-up overall.
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