‘Tired’ Reds face City onslaught

Thiago Alcantara has the expertise to unlock City’s stingy defence. — AFP

LIVERPOOL suffered a heavy body blow in defence of the Premier League title when they crashed to a surprise home defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

A similar result against league leaders Manchester City tomorrow could well prove fatal for Jurgen Klopp and his beleaguered Reds squad. And the way things stand, everything points to just that — a comfortable victory for Pep Guardiola’s on-form side.

It is never easy defending a league crown and Liverpool’s bid looks nowhere near to achieving it.

Certainly not with the results they have managed thus far, and it is compounded by the injuries that have ravaged the Merseysiders.

Despite all this, the Reds will be expected, by their fans at least, to put on a gallant showing and maybe upset the Citizens who, in contrast, are playing their best in a long time.

That form, even without their talisman Kevin De Bruyne and world-class striker Sergio Aguero, has taken City to the summit of the Premiership. It looks unlikely that they will not consolidate their place at the top when they visit Anfield tomorrow.

Liverpool are enduring a tough time, to say the least. With Brighton’s win, the Reds have now lost two in a row at home and that comes after they set a new club record of 64 unbeaten matches at home — just days before Burnley’s victory.

Gundogan has been in outstanding form in the heart of the Citizens’ midfield. — AFPGundogan has been in outstanding form in the heart of the Citizens’ midfield. — AFP

Klopp attributed their midweek defeat to fatigue and he might well be right. But whatever he does, he has got to get his team adequately prepared mentally and physically for the City onslaught. Anything shy of this could end up being a huge embarrassment.

City are unbeaten themselves in 20 matches and for good measure, they have conceded just four goals during that period.

Their midweek triumph over Burnley was their 13th on the trot in all competitions — a mark that matched Arsenal as the last Premier League side to achieve it in 2002.

At last, Guardiola has sorted out what was once City’s problematic defence.

He was helped immeasurably by the signing of Ruben Dias and the return to form by John Stones. Such are the resources at the Spaniard’s disposal that Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy are on the bench when the preferred two are on duty.

Man City now have the meanest defence in the league with a measly 13 goals conceded in 21 games.

The Burnley win also chalked up the Citizens’ sixth clean sheet in the Premiership this season.

The significant midfield contributions by Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, as well as the deadly attacking threats posed by the likes of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have not gone unnoticed.

In particular, Gundogan’s form has been a leading light for City in a season in which they are attempting to win the league for the third time in four seasons and make it a fourth title in eight years.

The German’s seven goals in 16 appearances (two coming off the bench) are a good return by any standards.

For Liverpool, the lack of goals upfront has been made clearer than ever.

This squad, that so ruthlessly swept aside all and sundry en route to a first league title in three decades last term, is battling demons up front where their once-vaunted trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are a thing of the past.

Liverpool have failed to score in their last three home matches, hence the poor form.

Some fingers may be pointed at the defence but in reality, the goals have dried up and their fortitude fallen by the wayside.

If Salah can reproduce his performance at West Ham the other day and Mane somehow get back to his old self tomorrow, then they may still stand a chance of thwarting City’s advances on their title.

But it is a tall order for a side reeling from lost confidence and it will be made more difficult by moving against a City outfit who themselves look like champions.

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