Premier League leaders Manchester City are unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions and will fancy their chances of extending that run when they host stuttering Liverpool at the Etihad on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
On paper, Man City are the favourites for this fixture. They are currently level on points with Arsenal at the top of the table after a strong start to the season, while Liverpool languish down in 10th, having won just two of their last 10 in the league. The Citizens have also triumphed in this fixture in four of the last five seasons, including a 3-1 victory last year.
City spent big over the summer in an effort to wrestle back the Premier League title they surrendered to Chelsea last season, laying out around £135 million on four new first-team players. And the early-season performances of Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin de Bruyne and ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling (pictured) certainly suggest that it will prove to be money well spent.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have not enjoyed a flawless start to the campaign but do look worthy of their status as bookies’ favourites for the title. It is inevitable that they will drop points here and there, but a side that are so regularly and convincingly out-possessing and out-shooting their opponents are also highly likely to out-score them more often than not.
The arrival of Sterling has added some much needed pace to the City attack and alongside the aggressive defending of Otamendi and improved displays from midfielders Fernando and Fernandinho, helped to re-energise a side who lost their way a bit last season.
Man City have already secured their passage to the last 16 of the Champions League with two matches to spare, while they have also made it through to the semi-final of the Capital One Cup. Indeed, after seeing his position questioned last season and in the face of continuing links with Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, Pellegrini has provided a strong riposte.
His opposite number, Jurgen Klopp, rode into the Liverpool job on a wave of enthusiasm that has slowed now the reality of the job has become clear. While he has already tallied as many wins (three) in all competitions as his predecessor Brendan Rodgers did in four extra matches, defeat at home to Crystal Palace last time out showed there is still plenty of work to be done.
There have been slight signs of improvement in what has been a tough opening set of fixtures for the former Borussia Dortmund coach. After Saturday, his side will have faced teams who finished in last season’s top seven in four of his five league matches at the helm, and he will be looking forward to the easier fixtures to come in the lead up to Christmas.
Klopp is still dealing with an injury list that will deny him the services of Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho, among others, for Saturday’s match, and has also not yet been able to call upon his most dangerous striker: the injury-prone Daniel Sturridge. It is also clear that he needs time to implement his preferred style of play. Yet despite their current position, one would still expect Liverpool to at least finish in the top seven come the end of the season.
Pellegrini does not have fond memories of his previous encounter with Klopp. His Malaga side came mightily close to defeating Dortmund at the quarter-final stage of the 2012/13 Champions League, only for two dramatic, injury-time goals to see Klopp’s side progress to the final four at their expense.
It is, though, the Chilean coach who can be expected to come out on top on Saturday. Liverpool will work hard to make this match as tight as possible, but Man City are simply the better team at this moment in time and our preview’s betting tips verdict is that they possess sufficient firepower to take all three points.