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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Attack the best form of defence when Reds visit Manchester

Defensive deficiencies could lead to a thrilling top-four clash

Roberto Firmino takes on Raheem Sterling
1 of 1

Premier League
Sunday 4.30pm, Sky Sports 1

Manchester City and Liverpool experienced contrasting fortunes last week but neither set of supporters can be entirely comfortable with what they observed.

The Citizens' limp 3-1 defeat in Monaco had immediate and severe consequences, with Pep Guardiola's men flopping out of the Champions League.

City fans had seen it all before - their team are scintillating when attacking with confidence and verve but shambolic when off their game and inviting pressure onto a second-rate defence.

Liverpool fans will have been pleased with three points against Burnley last weekend but that result papered over the cracks of another unconvincing display.

A Burnley side who had claimed just three away points all season were much the better team for the first half at Anfield and it was cruel on the Clarets that they went in to the break at 1-1.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp has been frustrated by their inconsistency, with Liverpool unbeaten in ten games against the top-seven while slipping up against lesser opponents, but perhaps their record is deceptive.

Liverpool's best results all came at the start of the season, when they won away at Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. However, Arsenal were operating with a makeshift defence, Tottenham's English core started sluggishly following a dire Euro 2018 campaign and Antonio Conte had yet to find the best formation for his new Chelsea squad.

Many teams might have still failed to collect seven points from those games, so credit is due, but, given the state of their opposition at the time, they remain slightly cheap points gained. And those results significantly skew what would otherwise be a standard record for a team who are strong at home but weak on the road.

And that unconvincing Anfield display against Burnley can only be a worry. Yes, Liverpool at their best offer exactly the sort of high-tempo attacking game that could tear this Manchester City side to shreds, but the Reds do not look the same side without three key components - buzzing threat Roberto Firmino is an injury doubt, calming organiser Jordan Henderson is out, and conjurer Philippe Coutinho has yet to rediscover top form since recovering from injury.

Liverpool still have plenty enough going forward to threaten a defence as vulnerable as City's, but they look unlikely to be able to dominate their visitors.

And the same looks true of Guardiola's men who, given their confidence-sapping midweek defeat, will surely struggle to replicate the level of performance that deserved better than the 2-2 draw with Tottenham in January.

It could lead to a rollercoaster encounter in which attacks are able take the initiative but defences are unable to close out the victory.

Draw and both teams to score
1pt 7-2 BetBright, Betfred, BoyleSports

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Dan Sait is the Football Editor of the Racing & Football Outlook, out every Tuesday

Liverpool will have been pleased with victory against Burnley last weekend, but the result papered over the cracks of another unconvincing display
E.W. Terms
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