It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: first meets second; Klopp against Pep; Red versus Blue. It’s the biggest game of the season so far and the outcome may well play a key role in deciding whether the Premier League title spends a third consecutive season in Manchester, or graces the city of Liverpool for the first time.
This fixture has been tight in recent years, with two draws in the last five encounters and a mere goal separating the sides on the other three occasions. Last time out, it was City who emerged victorious, claiming the Community Shield at the start of the campaign on penalties.
So, what’s important to know before this Sunday’s clash at Anfield?
1. City haven’t won at Anfield since 2003
City have swept all before them at home over the past two seasons but Anfield has proved a tough nut – even for Pep – to crack. You have to go all the way back to 2003 to find the last time City triumphed over Liverpool.
Peter Schmeichel played a blinder in goal for City that day while Nicolas Anelka helped himself to a brace against his former employers. City came close to ending their 16-year drought last season, but a Riyad Mahrez skied penalty cost the Citizens all three points.
2. Liverpool could go 9 points clear with a win
We’ve seen City close big point deficits before, but if the Reds amass another 9-point lead, it’d be a mountain to climb. Not only that, the psychological impact of Liverpool beating City would be a tough one to come back from.
Last season when there was a danger of Liverpool pulling away, we saw Leroy Sané step up and grab the winner at the Etihad. You have to wonder whether that will play on Merseyside minds come Sunday.
3. VAR is likely to play a role
The fire was well and truly stoked last week when Guardiola suggested Sadio Mané is “always diving”. Klopp refuted the allegation and hit back with a comment about City’s tactical fouls.
Debates over how easily Mané and Salah hit the deck inside the box have been raging on for some time now – as has the way City break-up oppositions’ counter attacks – so it’ll be interesting to see if it comes into the thinking of referee Michael Oliver or the VAR official come match day.
Former ref, Peter Walton, recently admitted on BT Sport that the threshold for VAR intervention is set to be lowered in Premier League games, so buckle up for what could spell even more controversy.
4. Key battles: Fernandinho vs. Firmino and De Bruyne vs. Fabinho
First there was Javier Mascherano, then Javi Martínez. Now, Fernandinho represents Pep’s latest project as he looks to convert yet another defensive midfielder into a centre-back. This time, though, it’s been born of necessity given the injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, and the transition hasn’t been all that smooth.
Roberto Firmino is one of the best strikers in the world when it comes to dropping deep and linking play. If Fernandinho gets dragged out of position and leaves space in behind, it could be curtains for City.
In midfield, Fabinho will be tasked with the unenviable job of stifling Kevin De Bruyne’s creative influence. The Belgian has five more assists than any other Premier League player this season – with nine to his name in total – so stopping the supply line into Sergio Agüero and co. will be integral to Liverpool’s chances.
5. What are the fans saying?
Ed Groves, Liverpool | Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
"The last time the two teams played the intensity was something else, but It wasn’t aggression, it was just a sheer, pulsating desire to win. Bernardo Silva was like the Duracell bunny that night, spurred on by an Etihad crowd that decided to turn up. While the managers continue to be petty as, you can’t see Henderson and Fernandinho exchanging anything other than some mild verbals. All this talk of the 'new United vs. Arsenal rivalry' is a bit much. For now.
"This time they come to Anfield, and at Anfield we just don’t seem to lose. We haven’t been playing well but those ex pros favourite football trope is ‘winning ugly is the sign of Champions’, and winning ugly is what Liverpool keep on doing."
Tom Pennington, Manchester City | Prediction: 3-1 Liverpool
“Anfield is the ultimate bogey ground for us. One of the only Premier League grounds Sergio has never scored at and, last time we won there, I was celebrating that late Anelka winner in an Odeon Cinema staff room on my Saturday job - no way this one will be a sat 3pm again anytime soon...
“We were a late pen away from breaking the curse last season but, given the injuries at the moment, I would take a draw again all day long. Laporte and Sané have been long-term misses, but with Rodri unlikely to be passed fit it and now Ederson a major doubt, I have the fear, big time. Heart says late Aguero winner but head says they edge it.”
Callum Zammit, Liverpool | Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
“Sunday is big so there’s no way on earth I can play this down and brush off its importance. This heavyweight clash is all about putting a marker down and opening up further daylight between us and City. That being said, I don’t buy into the theory that if Liverpool win on Sunday then the title is done and dusted – City are more than capable of putting together a great run.
“On top of that, Agüero must be licking his lips at the prospects of facing up to Lovren this weekend – a guy he tormented at the start of the year. Lovern has improved over the years but he does have a tendency to be rash. He epitomises the phase: ‘he has a mistake in him’. It will be a cagey affair, but I’m expecting (hoping) the Reds come out on top."
Nick Lewis, Manchester City | Prediction: 1-2 City
"Anfield. Always a grim experience for us but add an injury list of Sané, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, David Silva and now maybe Ederson and it's looking pretty bleak. Wednesday night saw a return of the old city – miss a pen to take a comfortable 2-goal lead and end up 1-1 with both keepers off and our right back in goal. A late winner at Anfield with 'Dinho in defence would be quite typical City."
Vik Tosar, Liverpool | Prediction: 3-2 Liverpool
“You have to think that Liverpool are slight favourites given they’re playing at home and with our squad at almost full strength. Man City are without Laporte and Ederson is a doubt, so Liverpool need to capitalise.
“Man City are bound to score and will press high, but I think the crowd will have a huge part to play on Sunday. It’ll be a cagey affair where the small details will matter more than ever.”